The New Playbook For Sports Brands

Liam Hamill 21.05.24
Read time — 3 minutes

For the most forward-thinking sports brands, sport has never been just a game. It’s an arena where humanity shines, connections are forged and emotions run high. More than ever, brands have to reflect those values if they want to stay in the race. Social shifts, cultural upheavals and technological leaps are rewriting the rules. Here’s our playbook for navigating this new world.

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Be real. Today’s fans demand more — they want a brand with a soul, a purpose that resonates beyond the scoreboard. Whether it’s championing diversity, supporting grassroots initiatives, or driving social change, your brand’s purpose should be the North Star guiding every play.

Take Hoka, whose mission is to empower all athletes to feel like they can fly. This means designing and developing exceptional products for people of all abilities and building authentic connections with their communities. Their commitment to social inclusion isn’t just talk; it’s woven into the fabric of their brand. From partnerships with nonprofits like Girls Gotta Run Foundation and advocating for mental health awareness, they’re driving change through engaging communities and sustainable practices.

Create bonds. In the age of social media, fans crave more than just a front-row seat; they want a backstage pass to the action. Building a community around shared values and beliefs is key to winning their hearts. Whether it's through exclusive content, behind-the-scenes access, or interactive experiences, find ways to make every fan feel like part of the team.

Look at how the NBA leverages platforms like NBA Top Shot to turn fans into collectors, creating a whole new level of engagement and excitement.

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Build a brand ecosystem. It's not just about selling tickets or jerseys anymore; it's about becoming a part of fans' everyday lives. From fitness apps to lifestyle products, expand your brand beyond the stadium and into the hearts and minds of your audience. By offering a range of products and services that cater to diverse needs and tastes, you'll become more than just a brand—you'll become a lifestyle.

Take Adidas, for instance. With initiatives like Adidas Runners and collaborations with designers like Stella McCartney, they've transformed from a mere sportswear brand into a global lifestyle icon.

Leave an impact. With great power comes great responsibility, and sports brands have the power to make a real difference in the world. Whether it’s promoting diversity and inclusion, supporting community initiatives, or driving sustainability efforts, use your platform to leave a lasting impact beyond the field of play.

Look at how the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative is tackling social justice issues head-on, from criminal justice reform to education and economic empowerment.

Put on a show. In today's attention economy, it's not enough to just play the game; you have to put on a show. Embrace new technologies, from AR and VR to live streaming and gamification, to create immersive experiences that captivate and delight fans. By weaving entertainment into every aspect of your brand, you'll create a bond that goes beyond wins and losses.

Think of how the UFC has used social media and streaming platforms to turn fights into must-see events, building a loyal fan base around the globe.

In summary, the game has changed, but the goal remains the same: to win the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. By leading with authenticity, fostering intimacy, building a brand ecosystem, making a positive impact, and embracing entertainment and technology, you'll not only stay relevant — you'll become a legend in your own right.

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