5 of the Best Sports Marketing Campaigns of All Time

Do you ever wonder what the building blocks to a great marketing campaign are? Is it the brilliant use of research to develop demographics and psychographics that are most commonly found through a brands target market? Is it the thousands of surveys, and constant use of focus groups, expert testimonials, a various other data collection and analytics methods? Maybe it’s just simply the ‘Hollywood’ approach, where a famous face and a few laughs build a brand in the eyes of the consumer?

My answer to you, is all of the above. Ad. Campaigns, especially ones that leave us as the consumer with a new admiration for a brand, are so critical to lasting impressions of a company. The really good ones that we re-visit on YouTube and share on Facebook for months, or even years, after can generate millions in revenue. Concurrently Ad. Campaigns that fail can re-design a company’s entire image, leaving a public relations proverbial trail of tears for years to come.

Some ads are brilliant, many fall flat on their face-we all remember the depressing Nationwide commercial  featured in Super Bowl XLIX that starred a deceased child. Regardless of the success rate, good or bad, ads on both ends of the spectrum had one thing in common: they all sparked debate throughout our nation. Here’s my list of some of the best campaigns of all time.

 5. Nationwide Jingle featuring Peyton Manning

My list begins with the aforementioned company Nationwide, even though their ad in Super XLIX is regarded by many as the worst Super Bowl commercial of all time, it was not irreparable towards Nationwide’s reputation.

The continuing success of one of the most popular jingles has been matched with NFL great Peyton Manning to consummate a wonderful relationship of wit and personable marketing that has overcome the disastrous outcome Super Bowl XLIX.

To Nationwide’s credit, they recognized the immediate success of this campaign and quickly made it one of their marketing focuses. Expanding the campaign past commercial and into on-site sponsorships distributing nearly 40,000 “chicken parm you taste so good” t-shirts to eager Denver Broncos fans at a recent home game.

Proving that effective marketing strategies can transform from a campaign directed at one sector, but if an opportunity arises can be transformed into various other formats. In Nationwide’s case they can even be transformed into one of the company’s single most effective promotions ever.

Nationwide Jingle featuring Peyton Manning

 4. Oreos: Dunk in the Dark

Many of you may think that a fatty creamed-filled cookie has no business being in a list of sports marketing campaigns, and you may very well be right. However, the reason that Oreo is on this list is because of one of the most illustrious moves in marketing history.

Strategies in marketing are ever-changing and as a marketing professional it is quintessential that one is able to adapt and see trends before the average person can. The revolution of technology and the implementation of social media into our culture has made this skill ever so important. Marketers can now reach their market in a matter of seconds, meaning that real-time marketing has become one of the most widely used and hardest to master strategies utilized by all marketers across the globe.

Oreo took this challenge head on in 2014 when the lights at Super Bowl XLVII mysteriously shut off. While 99% of viewers were wondering what had happened, Oreo decided to make the best of the situation by releasing their dunk in the dark advertisement across social media platforms within a matter of minutes.

This brilliant marketing ploy, and effective real time application is why Oreo makes my list, and further proves that strategy and position make a world of difference in promotion. A quick decision and a few words across several platforms that turned into a revenue generating super campaign.


3. Under Armour: Protect This House

For year’s athletic apparel manufacturer and distributor Under Armour was always considered a second-tier company behind the likes of Nike and Adidas. This thought process changed when Under Armour released its ‘Protect this House’ ad campaign over a decade ago.

The campaign that was directed mainly towards the gridiron and its football division took off so fast that many will make the argument that the company has become an industry leader, if not at the very least on par with the top apparel companies in the world.

This campaign has gone on to cornerstone the numerous other successful campaigns developed over in Maryland by the brilliant marketing team at Under Armour. For a company that was designed to protect the athlete that sweats a little too much, it only goes to show how effective the right marketing strategies can be, bringing Under Armour to the forefront of the fastest growing sector in the apparel industry.

Under Armour: Protect This House

2. Nike/Jordan Brand: RE2PECT

The perfect combination of paying homage to a sports legends while still branding a company’s image come in the form of Nike’s RE2PECT campaign. The campaign which debuted 2014, featured the Jordan Brand sponsored MLB legend Derek Jeter in some of the final at bats of his career with fans all across the country ‘tipping their hats to the captain. A video that proved no matter who your team is, everyone respects an individual that is widely considered as the archetype of their sport.

Much like the Dunk in the Dark campaign, RE2PECT was an omnichannel marketing sensation. Reaching over 50 million views on YouTube and countless others through television and various other social media shares.

The campaign may have only been one video, but the class and “respect” that was shown through Nike and the Jordan brand, is what leaves me tipping my hat to Nike with the number two spot on my list.

Nike/Jordan Brand: RE2PECT

1.Bo Knows

The top spot on my list goes to one of the greatest campaigns in marketing history, sports or otherwise. In a time where the technology did not play a major role in promoting, and marketing was done the good ole’ fashion way a struggling company released a campaign that would sky rocket them past every other apparel company in existence.

Before “Just do it” Nike was a company that was battling Reebok for superiority in the shoe sector of the apparel industry. Thus “Bo-Knows” was born, taking advantage of the multi-sport superstar Bo Jackson. Featuring him in a commercial participating in over 15 different sports featuring the diversity of their products. “Bo-Knows football, Bo-Knows baseball, Bo-Knows shoes”.

This led many to attest to the superior athleticism of Bo making him the perfect endorser for Nike’s cross-training footwear. In a matter of months Nike surpassed Reebok claiming nearly 80% of the shoe market share across cross-training shoes, and their overall brand image sky-rocketed, making it one of the fastest growing and most successful campaigns in history.

Bo Knows

If you have any memorable moments that these promotions brought you, please feel free to share them in the comments. If you believe that there is any campaigns that I may have snubbed Add a comment and persuade me!


Why I chose Sports Marketing

I declared as a marketing major two years ago at the University of Northern Colorado. I guess I never realized that there were so many sub-categories of career fields that pertain to a marketing emphasis. It wasn’t until after I finished my general education requirements at the university that I began to learn that I would have narrow my focus down even more from just general marketing.

I was still just a 21 year old kid with some serious decisions to make that severely impact the course of my life for years to come. It was a fairly nerve-racking time in my life to say the least, and I knew that it would be a decision that wouldn’t come easily. Therefore I took around a month and a half and really evaluated where I wanted to go with my career path in the time after college, a time that was rapidly approaching.

I think that most college students would agree that this time in their collegiate careers is one of the most stressful. It is a time where the excitement of going off to college has begun to die down and we spend our weekends working and studying instead of hanging out and socializing. We begin to realize that we have to start thinking about what we are going to do when we graduate, and for the juniors and seniors such as myself that time was not as far away as we initially had thought.

The Decision

It was finally time to decide on a path for my future, the long days and nights of asking myself open ended questions such as what will make me happy and what am I passionate about had to come to a conclusion. I finally sat down one night and mapped out what I enjoyed most about life, what my passions were, and what I believed overall would make me happy in my career. Everything led back to one subject, sports.

Graphic NTS

I had been an athlete my entire life, and sports were always the one thing that I enjoyed no matter what else was happening in my life. According to workinsports.com, goals, leadership, and problem solving skills are three of the main attributes employers look for in prospective employees. All of these were goals which I obtained while competing in athletics myself. Due to this I naturally felt that it was the right choice to pursue a career that may not necessarily keep me on the field, but would still allow me to remain close to one of my major passions.

In my social media marketing class I began to experiment with real world applications of branding myself as a sports marketer. The task was one that did not come easily, I greatly underestimated the difficulty branding myself in a field that I had just decided to enter.

However as time in this class passed I began get the hang of branding myself as a professional. I was nowhere near an expert but I had actually been able to connect with experts and real world sports marketing professionals. It was such a great feeling to be able to interact and connect with everyone from industry leaders to students such as myself.

I began to become excited to check my profiles every day and see if had any further interactions that would further my personal branding experience. I began to believe that this could be a field that I could actually be successful in. For a kid that almost declared as a sports management major at Colorado Mesa University before I transferred to UNCo sports marketing used to feel like a long shot. Now felt like a realistic opportunity, and I was already beginning to build networks that would help me tremendously in the future.

Take Away

Before being pushed by my Social Media Marketing professor into choosing a specific career focus I had no idea that I would be able to merge two of my passions together. Not only did I feel ecstatic about being able to possibly pursue a career still related to sports, I felt prepared, and was ready to take advantage of my new found connections after graduation.

Very few college students can give you a direct answer on what they specifically want to do when they graduate. I still can’t give a definite answer, however I can one hundred percent guarantee that sports marketing has made it up the list of focuses for consideration. Even if I decide to ultimately go a different route after graduation, I now have the confidence that I will be able to brand myself in a manner that will be attractive to prospective employers in many different fields.

What do you think about sports marketing as a business emphasis? Do you have any comments on how I would be able to better brand myself as a sports professional?