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Branding and social media taken to a new level – What can we expect in the years to come? Case-focus: Major Sporting Events, Summer 2014 – by ‘guest blogger’ Malene Hejlskov Mortensen

Guest blog written by Malene Hejlskov Mortensen, BA in Sport Management, University College of Northern Denmark & MA in Sport Management, London Metropolitan University, passionate about sports and the business of sports – (Kenneth Cortsen, ed.).

With major sporting events like The FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon, Tour de France, The Commonwealth Games, and US PGA, we have seen lots of new branding and social media trends. During the summer, many brands used the opportunity to engage with fans and followers through these events, which were taken to a whole new level. The FIFA World Cup is called the most social event ever. With the Premier League start last weekend and the NFL season starting next month, it will be interesting to see how the clubs have adapted to the latest social media trends and how they are going to communicate with their fans and thus utilize the many online opportunities!

The FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup 2014 was the most digital and social World Cup ever and many new records were set. For brands to maximize the potential of such major sports events, the pre-tournament period is very important before the non-official sponsors disappear behind the restrictions protecting the official sponsors. Nike is a great example of how a clear strategy can be successful to get your brand printed in the minds of the consumers before the tournament has even started. Their Campaign, prior to this year’s World Cup, ‘Risk Everything’, turned out to be very successful. Nike was not only perceived by many consumers as an official World Cup sponsor but the company also showed the future of marketing in which brands, media, and content meet with the intent to increase customer/fan engagement. Nike’s campaign also displayed the perfect mix of product placement, storytelling and real-time marketing. During the pre-tournament period, brands like Facebook and Twitter created World Cup related features; Facebook created a World Cup hub to access all relevant content from one site and Twitter had hashtags, live scores, and ‘man of the match’ voting sponsored by Budweiser.

Initiatives like these contribute to the increased social media numbers seen in 2014 when compared to the last World Cup in 2010; Facebook has doubled their monthly active users, there are more than 10 times as many tweets per day, Instagram was not launched until later that year (October 2010). The many opportunities also have their downsides seen from an official sponsor’s perspective; only 4 of the 11 most viewed World Cup brand ads were from sponsors! The continuous battle between Nike and Adidas, and Pepsi and Coca-Cola did not change during the World Cup:


Nike                  vs.                Adidas

176,744,114    views            78,654,503

2,391,963        shares          770,785

1.4%                 share rate    1,0%


Pepsi                vs.                Coca-Cola

4,822,008        views            31,197,025

77,844              shares          526,081

1.6%                 share rate    1.7%


Sponsors         vs.                non-sponsors

267,382,105    views            480,605,230

3,591,141        shares          8,889,265

1.3%                 share rate    1.8%

(Numbers are estimated. The UK Sports Network, 20142)

Such data question the value of being a ‘tier 1 sponsor’ because you cannot keep people away from social media but accessing players and visible advertising are still important and very valuable factors pre-, during and after an event. You cannot underestimate the importance of planning and tailoring the sponsor packages in regards to where the value lies; you can argue that those packages in the future must include more digital rights.


Wimbledon began just after The FIFA World Cup and the prestigious tennis event created new digital and social media initiatives to get closer to the fans. Wimbledon made a new app, improved the overall media experience with lots of real time video clips, which generated more visits, page views and thus increased the total audience. The real time content like video clips and Q&A with players once again showed an increased fan engagement. Additionally they had unique hashtags like #Queueselfie on Twitter, and #MyWimbledon on Google+. During the tournament, the event reached 2.4M Facebook likes, 190,000 Instagram followers, 1.17M Twitter followers, 1.15M Google+ followers and 90,000 YouTube subscribers (The UK Sports Network, 20143).

The Commonwealth Games

During the international celebration of sport, The Commonwealth Games, the unique hashtags like #Glasgow2014 and #bringiton showed their value; they reached 3.3M Tweets and 790,000 mentions. The value of unique hashtags and engaging with fans were also seen by SSE that encouraged the fans to join in by using #Go. In that regard, you could add your country or the country you supported. For those engaging, SSE had a competition running in terms of which young athletes SSE should support up until the next Commonwealth Games. The value of photo-bombing was also seen during the Games where the Queen of the United Kingdom and her grandson Prince Harry featured in players’ pictures, which went viral extremely quickly and were portrayed in several news papers around the world.


@_JaydeTaylor & Brooke Peris – Twitter


Trevor.Shailer – Facebook (Photo: Bev Hari)

Activation of sponsorships is essential in order not to miss the branding opportunities, which UNICEF has understood. The Commonwealth Games Federation and UNICEF signed a great partnership in which UNICEF had great success in the preparation phase as well as during the Games with the campaign ‘Put Children First’ with the purpose to raise money for the Children of the Commonwealth Fund. Despite the difficulties getting through the noise of the online communication, UNICEF had 20,000 mentions, which is 97% of the mentions relating to sponsors of the Games. The remaining four main sponsors received a total of only 2%. (The UK Sports Network, 20141)


The latest trend in golf is WIFI-points installed on the golf course, which allows video streaming. But also GPS tracking of players has turned out to be a great feature for the fans; e.g. where the players are teeing off and currents scores. These features give the fans a better experience and more to talk about on the social media platforms, which also allow for more sponsor and branding opportunities.

Premier League

During the summer, we have also seen some of the Premier League clubs investing in American tours. The clubs play lots of friendlies and they score big on global fan engagement via posted videos, interviews, and the proximity to fans abroad.

For instance, Arsenal is becoming more social and have reached 4M followers on Twitter, which makes the club the third most followed sports team in the world after FC Barcelona (12M) and Real Madrid (11.7M). Manchester United has launched a social media hub prior to the new season, which started last weekend. Having a social media hub is one of the latest trends in social media, where fans can access all content from the various platforms on one site. It gives some sort of control and the possibilities to give the best to the fans. The other Manchester football Club, Manchester City, is one of the leading clubs in the Premier League, not only as the champions of the 2013/2014 season but also in regards to social media. The club quickly adapted to the trends and has recently expanded its global social media presence by joining the new voice-messaging platform, Bubbly. Manchester City is using it for post-match interviews, voice-blogs, interviews in the players native languages, which all give their global audience an opportunity to get closer to the club and what is happening behind the scenes.

Above are only some of the many initiatives you see from brands, organizations and clubs around the world. However, in the sports industry we still see the problem with a lack of strategy. Having a strategy is essential in an era in which data have become even more important. Whatever the objective is, data should support the business strategy. The sport industry has found the vitality of data collection to develop the best strategy and utilize the many opportunities in a fast paced environment.

This blog post sums up this summer’s major sporting events concerning branding, fan engagement and how social media have affected the traditional sponsorships. It ends with the open questions of: is the value of ‘tier 1 sponsorship’ still the same? And what can be done to protect the rights of the sponsors?


The UK Sports Network (2014) 2 3

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