Brand Matters: Sports Marketing

6 min readOct 6, 2021

We’ve been spoilt for choice this year when it comes to international sport. First, we had the Euro 2020 tournament where football (almost) came home. Emma Raducanu’s Wimbledon debut gave us reason to believe that there is a future for British Tennis. And let’s not forget Tokyo where Team GB placed 4th at the Olympics followed by 2nd in the Paralympics with a combined total of 189 medals.

63 of which were gold we might add 🥇

There’s a lot we can learn about the importance of branding from these amazing events. Because when you think about it, there’s something special about sport. It has this unifying rallying call that can bring us under a common banner.

The sort of call that makes that random person in the pub decide you’re going to be best mates, just because you’re both wearing the same football shirt.

The badge that the whole country rallied around.

At Orb, we’re a team that loves sport, and we’ve recently been supporting two new clients in the sporting space. We’re so proud to announce that we’ll be helping IBSA Blind Games 2023 and FIG World Trampoline Tumbling & DMT Championships 2023 bring their brands to life.

There’s still quite a while before the games begin, so we can’t share too much yet. But we’re so excited that we just couldn’t help ourselves from putting together a few top tips on how applying long-term thinking can help you build a strong sports-related brand.

The importance of branding in sport

Every sporting brand will have its own challenges, but the goal is always the same. Give people something concrete to connect and identify with — a real reason to follow you. Because even though it’s often the focal point, it’s never just about the sport.

After the last 18 months, it’s never been more important to think ahead and build resilience into your brand. Let’s look at the Euros as an example.

Everybody knows that the World Cup and Euros happen every four years. It’s one of the only constants that football fans have when it comes to the ‘beautiful game.’ So when the pandemic hit and the tournament was pushed back a year, it left UEFA with more than a few branding challenges.

One of the biggest questions asked was: what was the tournament going to be called?

Euro 2020 or 2021? That was the question.

You might think the easy fix would be to change the name of the tournament to 2021. After all, that was the year the event was taking place.

Easy fix. Job done. Football saved, right?

But they didn’t. They kept it branded as Euro 2020. This wasn’t the lazy option that it might look like at first glance. On closer inspection, it was a more calculated and conscious choice. Let us break it down for you.

Firstly, when you are planning a brand identity, you are usually planning a few years ahead. So you need an identity that still feels relevant and not outdated by the time it comes around. That means avoiding trends when designing your identity, which UEFA did with a simplistic, but inclusive logo and style.

Secondly, it needs to appeal to people that are fans of the sport, as well as those who know nothing about the sport. It needs to feel exciting at a glance. After all, sport isn’t just for the super fans, it should be for the casual crowd too.

The extra time from the delay allowed them to partner with brands like the BBC to create contextualised messaging that everyone could get behind — even if they weren’t the biggest sports fan.

A fantastic ad, with fantastic facts. Well, for England fans.

Thirdly, you need to create a flexible and distinctive style. Building a distinctive brand identity means people need to use less brain power to remember who you are and what you do.

A great example of this in action is kit design.

Iconic kits can stand the test of time with fans of any sport, acting as permanent, physical reminders of an event or a team long after it’s all been said and done. In other words, they trigger emotion and give people a badge to get behind and support — which can be a good or bad thing, depending on which team you follow…

Want to see someone get this one horribly wrong?

Just ask Puma about their recent third kit release. One huge boycott later from the fans of multiple teams, and it looks like they’ve learned their lesson.

All the gear, but no idea.

Colours can also be iconic. It’s why you’ll never see the New Zealand All Blacks switching to hot pink any time soon (although never say never.)

A distinctive style makes it easier for people to recall your brand in a sea of competition and helps you stand out. The recent BBC ad nailed this distinction perfectly.

Distinction in motion from the BBC.

Putting it into practice

We recently got to work with an exciting Birmingham based app brand called UltimateFan — a new native app that combines the highs and lows of card pack openings bringing the nostalgia of Panini stickers into the digital age and traditional fantasy football.

Everyone thinks they are an expert when it comes to fantasy football. We all know an ‘armchair manager’ that thinks they could do it better than the pros. This led us to the campaign idea of ‘Stop talking and start proving.’

We designed and developed a suite of creative comms for the launch of the Euro 2020 tournament which included brand videos, a plethora of ads, branded animations, and lots of social media assets — all of which had to conform to the gambling and gaming advertising regulations.

Next level fantasy football.

We knew that community had to be at the heart of this project. We developed daily reactive posts to what was going on throughout the whole tournament. This level of relevant reactivity drew people in, but also made them stay as part of the online community — giving them a reason to engage with the brand outside of playing the game.

After crunching the numbers, we saw that we had smashed the campaign target driving over double the volume of downloads and almost 20% converted to paid subs

Looking ahead

For both of our projects with IBSA Blind Games 2023 and FIG World Trampoline Tumbling & DMT Championships 2023, it’s going to be important to showcase the high-level international event for athletes.

By thinking long term, our goal is to create identities that will still feel relevant and not outdated by the time they come around. That means working with our clients, finding the best ways to showcase the inclusiveness and pride behind the games taking place in Birmingham.

Wrapping it up

It’s time to blow the final whistle for this blog. But if we’ve got you pondering your own brand positioning or identity, our team of clever creatives are here to help you find a Better way of doing things. Click the link below to get in touch with the Orb team today:




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