Clock icon 18 min read Calendar icon Feb 26, 2024

Play to Win: 11 Great Sports Marketing Examples


Why do so many people know who Red Bull is? Because the brand has invested heavily in extreme sports, sponsoring events and partnering with extreme sports athletes (not to mention Red Bull Racing). Red Bull is the perfect example of how sports marketing can help make a brand well-known, create loyal customers, and drive revenues. But Red Bull isn't the only brand investing in sports marketing.

What is Sports Marketing?

Sports marketing is a specialized form of brand marketing that promotes sports events, teams, athletes, and related products or services. It involves strategies and tactics that connect with consumers through sports, including advertising, sponsorships, endorsements, experiential marketing, social media campaigns, and more. 

Sports fans are incredibly loyal; if you've ever been to any sports event, you know they have strong emotions. Brands that can tap into that emotion and become part of the fans' experiences can build their own loyal customer base, gaining exposure to new audiences and markets.

Let's look at ten examples of sports marketing that captured the hearts of fans and helped brands build awareness and increase loyalty.

10 Sports Marketing Examples We Can Learn From

There are many examples of sports marketing that you can learn from when designing your own strategy. Let's hope these examples give you some great sports marketing ideas for your own campaigns! We're showing a variety of campaign types - many that can be used by both small and large brands.

FIFA and Upland in the Metaverse

Upland is an open web3 platform and super app for the metaverse mapped to the real world. It partnered with FIFA to bring the metaverse to women’s football (soccer in the US), notably the FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Fans could interact in team-themed cafes, create customized avatars, display digital collectibles, and create games.

A Fan Score and in-game objectives enabled fans to earn points, including collection completions, participation in platform-sponsored community events, trading challenges, decorating contests, and more.


Why It Works: The entire experience was designed to engage with women's football fans and foster a sense of belonging. Gamification is a great strategy in sports marketing as more sports fans are online, exploring the metaverse and other gaming environments. Also, a growing trend in sports marketing centers around the growth of women's sports, including women's football and hockey, and innovative brands will be at the forefront of this growth.

Dos Equis Football Tailgate Throwdown Campaign

Dos Equis offers a great example of alcohol marketing in sports. The company is best known for its 'Most Interesting Man in the World' campaign but decided it wanted to show up at places where people were passionate about something - like sports.

 The campaign included many on-the-ground activities, limited edition products, a contest where fans could design their ideal tailgate experience, a broadcast partnership with FOX, and a number of university collaborations. The campaign provided a 13% increase in purchase intent by consumers who engaged with the program and increased brand awareness and its social media presence.


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Why it Works: The campaign was intended to get people to experience the brand, and the best place to do that is on the ground where people are. In this campaign, Dos Equis was at the stadium, tailgates, and bars on Friday nights, right alongside football fans.

Nestle DiGiorno + GWP Sweepstakes Program

Nestle DiGiorno wanted to boost engagement and trials for their new product, DiGiorno Classic Crust, at Walmart. To do this, they launched a gift-with-purchase program coupled with a sweepstakes. For every $10 they spent on the product, they would receive a $5 Walmart gift card and get entered into a sweepstakes to win football-themed prizes centered around the Super Bowl, including a grand prize big game watch party and an all-expenses paid football draft trip experience. Participants could earn multiple sweepstakes entries through additional purchases, referrals, social sharing, daily microsite visits, and opting into the CRM.  

The DiGiorno Classic Crust 2.0 Pizza Kickoff Sweepstakes

Why It Works: Getting the equivalent of half your money back for making a purchase is hugely beneficial for consumers, but including a sweepstakes component adds an element of excitement and engagement. Football fans are super fans, and the chance to win a watch party or a trip to the draft would encourage any fan to participate, especially when offered with multiple ways to earn a sweepstakes entry.

Aston Martin in Vegas with Formula One

What brand wouldn't want to get involved in Formula One in Las Vegas? It was a natural fit for Aston Martin, which sponsors a Formula One team and finds the US to be its largest market and brand community in the US.

2023 was the first year for the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, with a new street circuit and innovative experiences. Aston Martin went all out at the event - it displayed a series of 90-second sequences of its race car and new DBX707 and DB12 consumer models on the Sphere's Exosphere (the largest LED screen on earth).


In addition, Aston Martin created an in-person VIP experience for customers that included ultra-luxury activities both on and off the track. For those who couldn’t attend the event, the new Vegas circuit was added to Aston Martin’s online automotive configurator, enabling customers to configure their car and see it on the track.

Why it Works: Aston Martin is all about the luxury experience, and Formula One is nothing if not a luxury experience itself, so it makes sense that the brand would take advantage of this new track and give its customers an experience to remember. But even if you don't have Aston Martin's budget, you can still create these intimate experiences on a smaller scale at regional sports events.

Dove Body Confident with Nike

Dove committed to women's body confidence several years ago, and they have continued that commitment with the new "Body Confidence Sports Program" in partnership with Nike.

The three-year partnership with Nike and renowned academic experts developed an evidence-based program to build girls' body confidence in sports. It officially launched the program with the "It's a Hard Knock Life" Super Bowl LVIII commercial that showed young girls falling and getting back up.

Video: Dove "It's the Hard Knock Life" Super Bowl LVIII (58) 2024 Commercial

Why it Works: Dove's support of women and girls in sports is a perfect example of purpose-driven sports marketing, connecting the brand to a cause that's bigger than itself.

Puma & Manchester United on Roblox 

The streetwear brand Puma partnered with Manchester United, a popular UK football team, to debut a Man City Third kit in the Roblox metaverse. At the same time, they did a physical launch of the new kit on Man City's website and in stores that sell Puma gear.

The football club's Third kit gives Roblox players a chance to win an exclusive club jersey and purchase avatar items that show off the new Man City look. Players can go to the Man City Blue Moon experience in Roblox or the Puma and Land of Games experience and teleport to Blue Moon.  


Puma and Man United Campaign Videos:

When in Blue Moon, players compete in games to win a free avatar jersey and can also purchase the kit in the gear shop. As part of the launch, Puma also hosted a 5-on-5 Football Rush tournament, live-streaming it on YouTube, with the winning team receiving $10,000 to use on Roblox.

Why it Works: Roblox was the most popular game in the UK in 2022 among children aged 4 to 18, so using it to promote the Manchester United football team is a great way to engage and grow fans at a young age.

Jim Beam Sports Game Sweepstakes

Jim Beam has a regular series of sports-related campaigns, many of them focused on specific regions. This sports marketing strategy with consistent campaigns throughout the year and anchored by the sports calendar is a great way to stay top of mind with their audience and to reach new customers. As one example, to boost sales and drive engagement in Colorado and Minnesota, Jim Beam ran a sweepstakes program that offered three prize winners from each state game tickets to the Denver Nuggets in Colorado and the Minnesota Wild in MN. 

Jim Beam Nuggets Wild Sweeps 2023_

 Why It Works: This example is a program built on Jim Beam’s sports team partnerships with the Denver Nuggets (basketball team) and Minnesota Wild (hockey team). Each campaign is tailored to specific regions, enabling the brand to be focus on reaching consumers in each region. Smaller brands can take advantage of this type of promotion by partnering with local teams that have a lot of diehard fans.

FanDuel: Kick of Destiny with Rob Gronkowski

The Kick of Destiny Campaign is in its second year and continues the story of Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski attempting to make a 25-yard field goal in a live commercial broadcast during the Super Bowl. This year, FanDuel players who make at least a $5 bet on the Super Bowl could make a free bet on whether Gronkowski would make it or miss it (last year, he missed it). If they bet right, winners shared in $10 million bonus bet points on the gaming platform. This campaign included commercials of Gronk training for the big day leading up to the event and a commercial during the Super Bowl when he missed (again).


Why it Works: FanDuel is a sports betting platform, and it offers many different promotions on sports events that players can bet on, but most are one-time offers. The Kick of Destiny is a story in which people who love football and love or hate Gronk can get invested and bring more players to the FanDuel platform. Bringing in other celebrities, such as Jon Cena as the protagonist who wants to replace Gronk and Carl Weathers to help train him only builds on the story.

Abbott Nutrition and Real Madrid

To drive sales and to attract new customers for their Max Protein product line Abbott Nutrition partnered with Real Madrid, the famous Spanish football club, to help them do that. Consumers could enter an instant win contest daily to win prizes such as wireless headphones, portable speakers, Real Madrid jerseys, and protein shakes. There were also two grand prizes, including $10k cash and a trip to Spain.

To enter the contest, consumers created user-generated content (UGC) and submitted a photo and testimonial of how their day was powered by Max Protein or content showing their love of Read Madrid.  

Abbott Ensure Powered by Protein Sweepstakes web

Campaign details:

Why It Works: Everyone loves a contest to win cool prizes, especially when all they have to do is pick up their phone and take a picture of something they do or love. It’s a great way to introduce your products to sports fans.

Dave & Busters Big Game Campaign

Dave & Busters, a restaurant and sports bar chain,  and Gambit Rewards (a Snipp company), partnered to deliver loyalty points-based sports betting as part of the D&B Rewards program. As loyalty programs can grow stale, this is a great example of a brand adding in a new type of engagement into their program - and it allows them to stay in touch with their customers whether they're on-site or at home. For a brick and mortar business, that's an extremely critical way to stay top of mind with your loyalty program members - and it allows you to run promotions based on the sports calendar.

In this particular example, Dave & Busters and Gambit ran a promotion before the Big Game - providing 100 free tokens so their members could place a bet on the outcome. This campaign drove engagement and interest in the rewards program as well as in the Gambit loyalty points for sports betting component. 

dave & busters

Why it Works: Sports betting using loyalty points gives Dave & Buster's more engagement with their loyalty program members even when those customers are not in the restaurant, extending the brand's awareness beyond the in-store experience. It also allows them to set up a cadence of sports marketing-related campaigns to get members used to logging into the app while at home, in-store or traveling.

Nestle Leverages NHL Partnership

In an example of a sports marketing campaign that brands large and small can take advantage, Nestle ran an instant win and sweepstakes layered promotion. Nestle has an ongoing partnership program with its KIT KAT product and the NHL (National Hockey League). The Nestlé Break Like a Champ Contest is designed to drive engagement and sales, and increase Nestle’s CRM database. For this instant-win + sweepstakes promotion, consumers upload receipts for qualifying KIT KAT products for a chance to win NHL-related prizes such as gift cards and KIT KAT branded swag (snow tubes, hoodies, scarves, and touques) and an entry into the sweepstakes (a trip for 2 to the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals). 

Nestle CA Program 4 - NHL Partnership Instant Win and Sweeps

Why It Works: Using layered promotions such as mixing instant win prizes with a chance to win a bigger prize encourages consumers to participate as often as they can. When that big prize is a trip that includes airfare, hotel, and tickets to one of the biggest games in sports, it’s easy to understand why hockey fans would want to participate. Can you do this on a smaller scale? Consider partnerships and promotions with minor league teams (in any sport) to drive engagement. They may not be on the level of the NHL, but they have huge fan bases as well that would be open to these types of contests.

Getting Started with Sports Marketing

So you've read ten great examples of sports marketing, from high-cost to lower-cost campaigns, all driving engagement and awareness of brands across key audiences. How can you use this information to develop your own sports marketing plan?

The key to great sports marketing is understanding the biggest sports marketing trends to build upon, which many of the examples discussed focused on. Some of these include:

  • Leveraging platforms that reach a global audience, such as OTT platforms and streaming services.
  • Combining physical and digital elements (Phygital), including Web3 and the metaverse, and online gaming platforms like Roblox.
  • Participating in the growing movement of women's sports, putting a brand at the forefront of the movement.
  • Taking advantage of the growth in sports betting.

Develop a Sports Marketing Plan

Along with understanding which trends play to a brand's goals and objectives, you need to develop a plan that focuses on creating campaigns that work for your audience and company.

  1. Start by defining your target audience and creating clear objectives for your program.
  2. Next, find the sports and team(s) that align with that audience and your brand values. You don't have to look at major league teams; fan loyalty among minor league teams and local sports can also deliver big wins.
  3. Decide what tactics and channels you want to use that work with your defined budget and timeline. Think about sponsorships, endorsements, sports influencers, TV and OTT advertising, social media, and even local promotions.
  4. Measure, evaluate, and adapt as necessary. 

To help you start thinking about potential times or sports seasons and events, check out our 2024 Retail Calendar and the 2024 Sports Marketing Event Calendar. Also, see our recent guide to Trends in Sports Marketing.

Wrapping it Up

Sports marketing is a great way for brands to engage with customers and reach new audiences. Whether through sponsorships, in-stadium advertising, branded merchandise, or interactive experiences at sporting events and online, there are many ways to build brand awareness, drive sales, and create meaningful connections that can translate into long-term loyalty and success. We hope these examples give you ideas to implement your campaigns.