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Digital Innovation or Targeted Branding- Which team are you on this sports season?


2020 has been a year like none other. Wildfires, cyclones, floods, civil unrest and obviously, COVID-19 — a series catastrophic events have left us all distraught. With all the social guidelines and restrictions in place due to the pandemic, a lot of cultural and sporting events had to be cancelled globally, upsetting organisers and audiences alike. Major sporting events like Tokyo 2020 Olympics, African Football Champions League, Copa America, Euro 2020, London Marathon and Wimbledon 2020, were either cancelled or postponed.


The Gradual Comeback


While we are all waiting with bated breath for the pandemic to die out, some sporting events are returning gradually and cautiously. In India, for example, we are all looking forward to the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is scheduled to begin from 19th September, in the UAE. Obviously, with strict regulations in place, the IPL festival will have to go digital entirely for the target audience in India. As players return to the ground, albeit to relatively empty stands, brands that want to associate with mega sporting events will have to relook at branding entirely. And understandably so, because given the situation, they will have to be careful and sensitive.


Altered Sports Marketing


The pandemic has disrupted and accelerated the transformation of sports marketing and corporate communications. In the absence of the target audience at the venues, television packaging, production and broadcasting will be the focal points. Also, innovation will be necessary to come up with interesting ways in which brands would be included during broadcast. Consequently, virtual advertisements, augmented reality and virtual reality could experience higher demand and adoption.

However, what should corporate communication teams plan for? What should a brand communicate in this unprecedented situation?


Brands and their communication must go beyond the promotion of products and services they offer. Instead, they must focus on empathy and the power of sports as a medium to unify the human spirit. They should focus on the importance of staying indoors and social distancing, and support the fight against COVID-19, and some brands have done it quite well.


Brands That Inspire


Nike’s Play for the World campaign focused on the importance of playing indoors. Their You Can’t Stop Us campaign aimed to inspire all of us to expand human potential. It delivered a powerful message about the influence of sports — its ability to unite, strengthen and push boundaries.

In England, the English Premier League players launched an initiative to help raise funds for their National Health Service. A collective initiative, named #PlayersTogether, in partnership with NHS Charities Together, aimed at generating and distributing funds quickly and efficiently, to aid COVID-19 treatment and relief efforts.

Adidas, another global sportswear manufacturer, launched a brand movement, #hometeam, through a brand film, Ready for Sport. An internal communications campaign, this initiative reminded us all to keep moving, to share positivity and hope, so that once we return to a normal world, post the pandemic, we would be ready to bounce back stronger. Ready for Sport is also a part of Adidas’ COVID-19 relief efforts to support WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund.



Communicating the right sentiments will be crucial for brands. Sports stands for unity, positivity and vibrancy, and that’s what corporate communication teams should focus on conveying. In a time when an invisible virus is crippling economies, the aim of communication should be to support, empower and give hope. It should send the message that brands are actively participating in and supporting all possible COVID-19 relief operations so that we can all gather together soon, to enjoy the sports we love and celebrate together.

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