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The importance of ‘experiential marketing’ and ‘cultural branding’ in the business of sports

The recognized sports brand Oakley recently introduced a new branding campaign, which integrates and ‘plays on’ key ingredients of what makes the sports world unique. Among others, motorsport stars like Valentino Rossi, Sebastian Loeb and Fernando Alonso take part in the campaign.

The campaign was launched under the name ‘Change Perspective’ and features various ‘integrated marketing communication’ suggestions meant to reinforce Oakley’s brand message broadly. The work builds on the previous and flourishing ‘Beyond Reason’ campaign and thus applies a rhetoric pattern, which lets fans and consumers experience some of the best athletes in the World from a distinctive perspective, i.e. to state that ‘to change the game, a person must first change his/her perspective’. Specifically, Oakley strives to ‘dig deep’ in clarifying and displaying the ‘Beyond Reason’ attitudes of their star athletes and to ‘build an experiential bridge’ between these athletes and fans/consumers by ‘playing on the above-mentioned rhetorics’. The very best athletes in the World are capable of ‘changing the game’ and these characteristics of ‘drive, energy, determination and high performance thinking’ are part of the unique mindsets of elite athletes.

If you take a look at some of videos below, you will explore how some of Oakley’s motorsport stars continue to challenge themselves outside the racing tracks. It seems to be an ongoing and ever-lasting process.




Tom Cartmale, Oakley UK Brand Director, stated that “this spirit of new adventure, new experience and new horizons is what drives our iconic athletes, and has enabled Oakley to reset boundaries in product design and sport performance. We hope this campaign will inspire and intrigue but most of all create a deeper connection with our consumers and enhance awareness & understanding of our lifestyle products, specifically Garage Rock”.

Print ads, interactive video web-banners, digital and ambient outdoor activity and in-store video screens highlight Loeb as a helicopter pilot, Alonso as a road cyclist and Rossi as a rally driver. A centralized campaign heart on will run interaction and photo sharing across Oakley, athlete and retailer social networks.

This campaign is a great example of integrated marketing communications centered on sports. It works as a ‘combined force’ with the potential to be cost effective while also optimizing positive brand capital. Viewed from my angle, it seems to be a campaign that ‘plays on’ the elements of ‘iconic brands’, a term coined by Douglas Holt in his book How Brands Become Icons: the principles of cultural branding from 2004. He wrote that “iconic brands function like cultural activists, encouraging people to think differently about themselves. The most powerful are prescient, addressing the leading edges of cultural change. These brands don’t simply evoke benefits, personalities, or emotions. Rather, their myths prod people to reconsider accepted ideas about themselves (Holt, 2004, p. 9).

In an era where experiential marketing and thus ‘cultural branding’ are significant assets in the marketing efforts of sports-related organizations, Oakley reflects a fine strategic understanding of the cohesion between products and the marketspace. This understanding most likely leads to better targeting in terms of linking to consumer patterns.



Holt, D. B. (2004). How brands become icons: The principles of cultural branding. Harvard Business School Press. Boston, Massachusetts, the US.

Oakley’s campaign, see more.

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