Play inside: Sports brands like Nike pivot to encourage social distancing


Sports advertisers are moving fast to adapt to people’s homebound lives.

With people now holed up in their homes to avoid the coronavirus, big sporting events have either been pushed back a year or put on hold indefinitely. In the absence of those key promotional events, the likes of Nike and Adidas are trying to show how their own direct-to-consumer services, whether its training apps or online stores, can fit into people’s new homebound lifestyles.

Instead of the usual social media posts, Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, have resorted to promotional messages that have more in common with public-service-announcements than the creative flair usually associated with their marketing.

Nike’s text-based ad reads: “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.”

Source: Nike

Several of Nike’s high-profile athletes including golfer Tiger Woods and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo shared posts of themselves “playing inside.”

“Of course, being sensitive to the realities of everyday life is important, but on the flip side, people are definitely craving a level of normality and the ability to escape the bleakness of the daily news cycle,” said Paolo Nieddu, global head of strategy at football publisher Copa90.

Adidas has made similar moves.

Source: Adidas

Like Nike, Adidas isn’t posting as much as it normally would on Twitter in the absence of sporting events it can riff on. According to SocialBakers, Adidas is sharing one post on Twitter a week now whereas five weeks ago that number was around six.

What little content Adidas has shared online, however, remains relatively unchanged from its usual content strategy There are still posts about kit launches and sneaker launches, for example. One area Adidas hasn’t slowed down is on Instagram.

Since the start of March, the company’s average number of weekly posts on the social network has gone from two to four, according to SocialBakers. But It’s not just Adidas that seems to be focusing all its efforts on Instagram. The social network seems to be the one platform where all four sportswear manufacturers continue to promote their products, per SocialBakers, which found the number of weekly posts from each business to the social network had increased since the start of the month.

Source: SocialBakers

Under Armour’s encouraging people to use the routines in its app to workout from home. Puma is asking fans to share photos of themselves keeping fit while practicing social distancing. Simultaneously, the advertiser has asked its sponsored athletes such as footballer Luis Suarez to encourage people to stay at home.

“Brands are looking at their marketing and thinking creatively about how they can connect with people now we’re in this weird, isolated world, which is what we’re doing as an agency with our clients,” said Lisa Parfitt, managing director of sports marketing agency Engine Sport. “For the time being it’s not going to be short-term sales targets driving campaigns. Brands will need to be working on brand-building.”

More in Marketing

In the marketing world, anime is following in the footsteps of gaming

As marketers look to take advantage of anime’s entry into the zeitgeist, they might be wise to observe the parallels between the evolution of anime as a marketing channel and the ways brands have learned to better leverage gaming in recent years. 

With the introduction of video ads and e-commerce, Roblox looks to attain platform status

Roblox is expanding into more areas than just ads in 2024. Much like platforms such as Amazon and Facebook have transcended their origins to evolve from their origins as online marketplaces and social media channels, Roblox is in the midst of a transformation into a platform for all elements of users’ virtual lives.