Sports is one of the largest industries in the world. It’s estimated to be worth $1.3 trillion dollars worldwide.
Naturally, sports brands have some of the best marketing in the world, too.
What can we learn from the top marketing campaigns and strategies of sports brands?
1. Nike tells the best stories
You can’t talk about sports marketing without talking about the largest sportswear brand in the world.
Nike is known for many things – for its waffle soles, for its technological innovations, and most recently, for its attempt to break the 2 hour barrier for the marathon.
But underneath all of that, the heart of what Nike does best is storytelling.
Here’s what Steve Jobs had to say:
Nike sells a commodity, they sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, as you know, they don’t ever talk about the product, they don’t ever talk about their air soles, how they’re better than Reebok’s air soles. What’s Nike do in their advertising? They honor great athletes and they honor great athletics. That is what they are about.
Learn more: Nike’s marketing strategy
2. Adidas does killer collaborations
Adidas has a history of all sorts of interesting collaborations with artists – examples include the current adidas by Stella McCartney, the Y-3 product line with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, and Adidas x Jeremy Scott.
Learn more: Adidas’ marketing strategy
3. Red Bull creates the best spectacles
Superficially, Red Bull sells expensive energy drinks. But in practice, it’s an entire lifestyle brand with its own media.
Learn more: Red Bull’s marketing strategy
4. GoPro makes the customer the hero of the story
GoPro has had competitors that were technically as good if not better – but none of them came close to appreciating their customers’ wants.
GoPro focused on making its users look as cool as possible, and allowed them to show off to their friends and to the world. It became the obvious choice for high-performance athletes, and the obvious gift for hobbyists and adventurers.
Learn more: GoPro’s marketing strategy
5. The North Face uses an editorial strategy to win over would-be explorers
The “Never Stop Exploring” blog features TNF athletes on their adventures and expeditions, including everything from big free-wall climbs around the world to the 3,000 El Cap summits in Yosemite.
The athletes record videos and write blogposts about their experiences, inspiring millions of fans and new customers to participate in the extreme outdoor lifestyle that the company promotes.
Learn more: The North Face’s marketing strategy
6. Fitbit got its customers competing with their friends
Sports is all about competition, and Fitbit understood this very well.
It became habit-forming for its users by casually pitting them against one another, giving them something to compete over.
Learn more: Fitbit’s marketing strategy
7. Reebok became cool again by becoming the trusted brand of a niche – CrossFitters
Consumer-focused events have become a pillar of Reebok’s marketing strategy. Events such as the Reebok Spartan Race and the annual Crossfit Games have become key in spreading brand awareness through word-of-mouth.
Learn more: Reebok’s marketing strategy
8. Lululemon wins over customers with warmth and openness
Yoga is a tremendous phenomenon that has swept up the world in the past couple of decades. And Lululemon has been well-positioned to profit off of it.
But they don’t do this in an overly aggressive way – rather, they make their stores and salespeople as inviting as possible.
Learn more: Lululemon’s marketing strategy
9. CrossFit is all about fostering a global community
Yoga too ‘soft’ for you? Do CrossFit instead!
The genius of CrossFit isn’t in its sets of workouts, but in the way its organized as a community and a movement.
Learn more: CrossFit’s marketing strategy
10. League of Legends turns video games into mega-arena spectacles
The esports industry is worth almost $700 million and will be worth over a billion dollars by the end of the decade.
At the forefront is the most popular game in the world – League of Legends. They’ve developed one of the most-watched and most-played competitive gaming experiences in the world.
Learn more: League of Legends’ marketing strategy
11. SoulCycle appealed to its customers’ sense of glam
Soulcycle stresses on teamwork with your #SoulMates and #SoulSquad, and they are able to transform a scene of sweaty bodies cycling in a tiny room into a ‘collective spiritual exercise’.
By also selling #SoulSwag that allows fans to show off their Soulcycling credentials proudly, SoulCyclers create an image of being part of the in-crowd.
Learn more: SoulCycle’s marketing strategy
12. Under Armour carved out a niche amongst the titans
Founder and CEO Kevin Plank hated how his soaked cotton undershirts weighed him down while playing football, and he had to constantly change out of them every quarter.
Driven by his frustration, he came up with a moisture-wicking compression shirt that remained dry no matter how much you sweat.
He spent $17,000 and ended up with 500 shirts, which he began sending to his former teammates who were currently playing in the NFL.
Learn more: Under Armour’s marketing strategy
13. Fit Little Bride kept it simple
Carving out a niche can sometimes seem like a difficult thing to do – but when you figure it out, it’s often something that can be stated in a simple, direct way.
Fit Little Bride does exactly that. Just from the name of the brand, you know who it’s for and what it’s about.
Learn more: Examples of simplicity in marketing
14. Zumba made it casual and easy for people to bring their friends
Often people give up on workouts because they end up lacking willpower – however, as Zumba is meant to be a communal affair, your friends help to keep you in check.
Zumba fans often say that Zumba is like a great unwinding activity at the end of a crazy day, and they look forward to dancing with their friends and keeping fit both emotionally and physically.
Learn more: Zumba’s marketing strategy
Conclusion: Sports marketing is fun, powerful and profitable
Sports seems to lend itself to marketing better than lots of industries. There’s just so much to tap into.
There’s the human drama aspect – the underdog fighting his way to the top, the professional athlete making tremendous sacrifices.
There’s the community aspect – people coming together to participate in something greater than themselves.
Read next: 110+ marketing examples