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As far as I can remember, every time I’ve come across an advertisement or commercial from an athletic gear, apparel or beverage manufacturer, I’ve always been impressed with their ability to succeed in their marketing efforts.
Maybe it’s due to the fact that most of these companies are worth billions of dollars and can afford the brightest and best minds in the industry, or because they have access to assets and resources many brands can only dream of.
Sure, it could quite possibly be because they’re given creative freedom and a blank cheque, but it could also have something to do with the object they’re marketing.
Before we get started, a few disclaimers. First off, many people strongly believe that it’s much easier to market a diverse line of products than a lone product – especially when the line consists of products that can be a kicked, thrown and caught in many different ways and styles. It also helps that these objects can be used as a component to a skillful and entertaining routine that has the power to “wow”.
Basically, this includes virtually all sporting equipment and gear, plus the ever infamous Go Pro which seems to look amazing no matter what you do with it.
Second, I’m not psychologist. I’m not claiming to know the scientific reasoning behind why the human brain seems to “enjoy” a particular advertisement more than another, but that won’t stop me from asking questions and attempting to create insightful or thought-provoking conclusions. With that said, let’s move forward.
You might be thinking, “what do you mean when you say sports advertisements never fail”? Which is undoubtedly a great question with a simple answer, but complex meaning. The brands I’m referring to in this post include Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Under Armour, Gatorade, Powerade (to name a few).
These brands all seem to operate within the same space and either sell some form of athletic gear (clothing/balls/bats/gloves) or a beverage designed to prevent dehydration and give your body what it needs during vigorous exercise.
While all similar, these brands have unique selling propositions that make them distinctly different from each other in their own way. The one thing they have in common, is their ability to consistently win with their advertisements. How do they achieve such continued success? Simple. They sell the sport, not the product.
When you think of commercials from any of these brands, they almost always include a pro athlete – an instant boost to almost any campaign – which allows audiences to associate real life people with some of the most recognizable brands in the world.

But they don’t stop there. The athletes may use the brands’ product, but the commercial is more than likely going to show a lot of training and preparation leading up to “the big moment”, without mentioning a word about the product’s benefits (most of the time) to help create an emotional connection to the audience.
Sports are filled with adrenaline, regardless of whether you’re the one stepping on the ice or watching the game from your couch. They allow you to be part of the action while taking your emotions for a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. When you watch a commercial from any of these brands, you’re immediately reminded of the game and the emotions you feel when you watch.
The most ingenious part about all of this, is these emotions weren’t created by the brand. They were created by the sport and the athletes who play it, with the brands (and the gear they produce) providing nothing more than the tools they need to do what they do best. Without short changing the brands themselves, many have done wonders to help innovate and grow the sports with new technology which deserves a considerable amount of credit. But from the perspective of a marketer, it’s a message that is easily lost on its way to the viewer.
Interestingly enough, most of these brands haven’t (consistently) diverted from this style of advertisement over the last 15 years and it’s silly to think they’d stop now.

With no statistics needed, I can easily say that these advertisements work. In fact, it’s part of the reason many of these brands have performed so well this generation.
But that isn’t everything. Sports brands, and their advertisements never fail because they have succeeded at something that almost every consumer brand has been trying to do for the last 5 years: create inclusive, memorable experiences for consumers around the world. Or as we marketers like to call it, kick-ass branded content.
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Chris Stasiuk

Author Chris Stasiuk

Chris is commercial director and founder of SVG, a Toronto based video content agency.

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