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Why are mega-events in sport so interesting for brands?

My latest post about the UEFA Champions League final reflects how and why brands are looking to ‘score commercially‘ by taking advantage of the ‘emotional equity’ associated with mega-events in sport. These events fuse considerable amounts of fnas and hence create a sense of unity among these fans and the brands tied to the specific event in focus. AdAge (2005) wrote that The greatest brands are those with the strongest emotional connection to their consumers.” That unique characteristic is one of the strongest assets for many thriving sport brands or successful brands from other industries, e.g. Budweiser, Domino’s, Chevrolet, Audi, Rolex etc., applying sport as a marketing vehicle. Emotional equity builds on the exhaustive levels of commitment and loyalty, which stem from how sports fans invest in the support of their favorite sports, team(s), and athlete(s).


Pine and Gilmore (1999) emphasized that a business operating in the experience economy should aim at maximizing the time and money, which customers spend in relation to the brand of the particular business. That statement is transferrable to the area of sport branding. Devoted sport fans have invested immeasurable portions of time and money for what reason sport entities should worship this exclusive positive feature, which characterizes the business of sports. Bouchet et al. (2013, p. 32) state that “for many consumers and young ones in particular, the value and the power of sport brands rely of past moments of glory, stories, symbols and imaginary contents they have been associated with which make them unique. Therefore, few brands can claim the same power and level of identification attraction.” If managed well, this means that sport brands have enourmous potential to shape profitable business solutions (although we have to keep in mind the high level of player salaries in many professional sport clubs, which detract value from this equation). AdAge (2005) comments that branded-entertainment (and that is highly relevant for actors in the business of sports) is a cutting-edge tool when working with ‘experiential marketing’ but that it must include storytelling, which is compelling and capable of building emotional connections with the audience. For upcoming sport brands, this is a key learning lesson and it must be combined with the ability to build a strong emotional connection with new and current consumers/fans. Basically, these brands must strive to connect with fans from the first interactions and enhance the relationships with long-time fans. At the same time, these brands must stress and integrate the approval, which fans associate with the brands.


The mega-events in sport reproduce the competitive forces of the pitch in the ‘branding competition’, which takes place off the pitch. Sport events with global appeal have turned into a commercial playground for brands investing highly in the association with the emotional equity of sports. Through these events, brands have a chance to test whether or not they have a captivating branding strategy. The brands constantly find themselves in ‘fights for market shares’ and investing in enhanced status and recognition via these events may prove as an effective way to boost sales at rapid growth rates. If the brands succeed in communicating and acting in ways, which affect fans positively from an emotional angle, then they may find solid access to hundreds of millions of fans. There is certainly economic prosperity to be found if brands build an emotional relationship between the sponsored event (and sport) and the fans. Here, innovative and dynamic activation plans should be developed, i.e. all activities must entail the element of brands improving their methods of engaging highly with the fans. That will secure the element of ‘high visibility’, which is so essential for any business and industry.


Emotional equity in sports is high in the sense that a lot of sport events and and other sport brands are ‘high visibility assets’. Big global brands, e.g. Nike, Pepsi or Apple, are also highly visible and competent sport marketers are fully aware that they act in a ‘high visibility industry’ where many sport brands are at the same level. Look at David Beckham as an example. If you mention his name in many parts of the world you will most likely get a reaction. That may explain why many sport brands have the potential to launch different brand extensions when there is a high level of emotional equity at play. For that reason, sport is an interesting arena for brands trying to brand or re-brand themselves rapidly or with a wide geographical impact. Sport is a platform that may give brands a younger and more dynamic appeal and thus a widened recognition in the minds of a much larger audience.


An example of engaging activation is shown below in the video ‘The Quest’ from Adidas (FIFA World Cup 2010):

And an example of what Coca-Coca has done to create some buzz around its affiliation with the FIFA World Cup:

And Hyundai’s ‘Die Hard’ commercial for the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Ford’s engagement with the UEFA Champions League:



AdAge (2005). “Emotional Equity Is Still Disney’s Key Asset”. Accessed on May 29th, 2013 (link – originally published February 14th, 2005 by Michael Mendenhall)

Bouchet, P., Hillairet, D. & Bodet, G. (2013). Sport Brands. Oxon, the UK. Routledge.

Pine, B. J., & Gilmore, J. H. (1999). The Experience Economy: work is theatre & every business a stage. Boston, Massachusetts, the US: Harvard Business School Press.

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