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Algorithms Sports & Fitness Marketing

As the summer of sport kicks off, focus on social media’s ‘interest algorithms’

By Allan Blair, Head of strategy EMEA



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July 5, 2024 | 6 min read

Modern social platforms are built to serve surging content to everyone who might be interested. For our sports & fitness focus week, VaynerMedia’s Allan Blair says that’s a glowing opportunity for hungry brands.

Runners on a track, in an arrow formation

This summer of sport, are you paying attention to social platforms' algorithmic attention analysis? / Steven Lelham via Unsplash

In Germany, football’s Uefa Euro 2024 is in full swing. France is ready to launch the Olympics, Paralympics, and Tour de France. The UK has Wimbledon, of course.

In short, sport is going to dominate Europe this summer. And while we’re all chatting about these events at the pub, the real battleground for attention will be on social media.

Back in April of this year, we saw an unprecedented amount of content created around the London Marathon, not unrelated to record-breaking fundraising and sign-up numbers. It’s no flash in the pan, but it has set a new high benchmark for the upcoming tournaments.

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Paying attention to sport

The sheer volume and variety of major sporting events will ensure that sports-related content floods social media. During specific weeks around big games, we will see social platforms’ ‘interest algorithms’ (more on those shortly) tailor people’s feeds to what they’re consuming and interacting with. It’s simple: the further England goes in the Euro tournament and the better Team GB performs in the Olympics, the more people will be interested, watching and engaging in content on social media and consuming relevant content.

As my colleague Gary Vaynerchuk discusses in his latest book Day Trading Attention, the ‘interest algorithm’ powers what social platforms show us. It plays a crucial role in marshalling modern consumer attention.

Many of us became aware of the power of such algorithms when TikTok showed us just how well it can get to know us and serve us what we’re interested in, right now. And TikTok’s runaway success has led to its techniques being embraced by most social media platforms as the way to deliver content to users.

So now, whichever platform you’re browsing, it will tailor your feeds to highlight the content you’re most engaged with. With the natural peaks in attention around sporting events, this makes it easier for sports content to go viral during peak times. Using the interest algorithm properly, even small brands can reach huge numbers of people through engrossing, creative work. There is, in other words, vast value in organic social for brands like these.

Strategy, strategy, strategy

Of course, attention varies across regions. What’s viral in France might not resonate in Poland. Cultural references and jokes that are popular in Germany may fall flat in Spain. Thus the need for a tailored approach to content creation and marketing. Strategy roles, specifically designed to understand the nuances of social media and culture, are key. It’s not just ‘spray and pray’; brands need to lean on their strategy teams to make work that understands both platforms and trends.

Here's how it can work in practice. During a recent European campaign for a global finance brand, we brought together diverse elements to appeal to multiple audiences – who would all be exposed to sports content but who (like all humans) have varied interests. To ensure that our content would appear on our targeted cohorts’ feeds, we created content with athletes that also featured a street art project in Italy, a mobile running game featuring Paralympian Jonny Peacock, and bespoke music-creation-based projects in Spain, Poland, and the UK (featuring different artists and musical genres). Each of these elements were tailored to the local markets, and supported at a pan-European level with further assets celebrating the brand’s love of sport and progress stories. The campaign features local influencers, creators, and athletes, tapping into what resonates with the target audiences.

One size cannot fit all

Brands must move away from the outdated one-size-fits-all approach, particularly in the realm of sports marketing. We must instead be driven by social listening and real-time feedback, allowing brands to pivot and adapt quickly to local trends. This strategy ensures relevancy and fosters a sense of authenticity and connection with audiences.

As the summer progresses and sports events continue to capture our attention, the winners in the marketing world will be those who embrace this localized, culturally aware approach. Brands that recognize the unique tastes and preferences of different regions will be the ones to take home gold.

Those who fail will be on the losing side, drowned out by more relevant and resonant content.

For more play-by-play on sports marketing in 2024, check out our focus week hub.

Algorithms Sports & Fitness Marketing

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VaynerMedia is a global creative and media agency with offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Singapore and Mexico City.

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