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Marketing is an ever-evolving beast, whether it be the continuous introduction of new channels, shifting consumer expectations, or emerging competitor brands looking to disrupt their established counterparts.

Despite all of this, one thing that remains constant for brands is the requirement to grow, engage and meaningfully connect with their community. Taking on board this sentiment, Will takes a look at the concept of ‘brand activation’, some of its key benefits and how to effectively activate your own brand.

What is Brand Activation?

Activation is a critical and ever-evolving part of the marketing puzzle. It’s a strategic approach aimed at creating a memorable brand experience, building brand loyalty and (hopefully) long-term engagement. As brands compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace, brand activation has become more important than ever before.

A successful activation requires a deep understanding of the target audience and their motivations to engage with a brand. It’s important for brands to find innovative ways to engage consumers, which can include everything from social media campaigns and influencer partnerships to in-store events and product launches. But simply implementing these tactics is not enough. The real challenge lies in creating a unique and impactful experience that truly resonates with the consumer.

To achieve this, brands must connect with their target audience on an emotional level, creating immersive experiences that really tell a story.

Types of Brand Activation

Activation comes in many different forms depending on the campaign goals and target audience. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Experiential – An immersive and interactive experience such as events, product launches and in-store activations.
  • Influencer – Working with influential people to promote your brand, often aimed at reaching new, complementary audiences.
  • Digital – Online channels to promote the brand, such as social media campaigns, email marketing, or online ads.
  • Sponsorship – Partnering with an event, organisation, or individual for brand association.
  • Content – Creating and sharing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a target audience.

Benefits of Brand Activation in Sports

Brand activations possess a whole host of benefits. More on this and some supporting examples below:

  • Improved Customer Engagement – Bringing our ‘Unfiltered’ campaign to life, PADI created an interactive VR experience at boot Düsseldorf.
  • Targeted Marketing – Events and activations often attract specific demographics, which allows the brand to tailor its approach accordingly.
  • Building Loyalty – We worked with Salomon to create a positive connection with customers via the ‘How to Trail Run Series’.
  • Measurable Results – Activations often provide measurable results, such as increased sales, website traffic, or social media engagement. 
  • Boosted Reputation – The most successful brands boast a positive reputation and appeal among consumers.
  • Increased Awareness – It’s a given that sports events and activations often attract large audiences. For DHL we activated their partnership with German Rugby to reach a broader audience.
  • Increased Sales – By creating a positive and memorable experience, it’s more likely that consumers will be encouraged to purchase from a brand – Strava Challenges are the perfect example!
  • Cost-Effective – Compared to other forms of advertising, brand activation in sports can be more cost-effective than paying for an expensive advertising space.

Five Examples of Successful Sports Brand Activations

What about some real-life examples? Here’s a selection from the Brandwave portfolio to get your teeth stuck into.

1. Suunto

Our brief was to break the mould of a typical product launch – an influencer event that achieved a reach of over 15 million people.

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2. British Marine

We conceptualised and brought Aqua Bootcamp to life with the help of some world-class event partners to promote the Southampton Boat Show to a new and much broader audience.

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3. Salomon

We created an event aimed at growing the trail running fanbase and opening up new opportunities to the wider outdoor community.

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4. Mac in a Sac

When staycations were on the rise and spending more time in the great outdoors was on everyone’s agenda, the opportunity to deliver an action-packed adventure day was too good to shy away from!

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5. Montane

Hugely powerful, unbelievably inspirational and worthy of its reputation as one of the greatest ultra trail challenges in Europe. We activated Montane’s title sponsorship at three key trail running events (The Lakeland 50 & 100, Dragon’s Back Race & Winter Spine Race).

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Let’s take a look at some other examples…


Whether it was planned or by chance, Rihanna’s recent halftime performance at the Super Bowl did the Salomon brand no harm at all…

The Business of Fashion say that this is the culmination of Salomon’s recent rise in fashion given they were the fastest growing footwear label on StockX last year, with trades up over 2,200 percent on the resale platform.

These are the Maison Margiela MM6 x Salomon Cross Low sneakers she wore during the show.

Guerilla marketing at its finest… Unconventional and often surprise-based marketing tactics, such as hidden advertisements, to grab people’s attention and create a buzz. 

Another great example from IWC Schaffhausen in collaboration with Lewis Hamilton… After all, where there’s a space, there’s a marketing opportunity!

As we move into 2023, consumers will continue to return to in person shopping. It’s vitally important to keep the in-store experience top of mind. Gymshark, Snow Peak and On some recent best practice examples of how to create a branded environment within a flagship store. 

Photo credit to Alex Griffin, CMO at On. Fair to say that their new home in London is pretty special!

How to Activate Your Sports Brand

And finally, here are some steps to activate your own sports brands:

  • Define your target audience and tailor your brand activation to their needs.
  • Choose an event or platform that aligns with your values and target audience.
  • Develop a comprehensive marketing plan that includes a range of activations.
  • Collaborate with key partners to reach a wider audience and increase impact.
  • Create a memorable and engaging experience.
  • Use technology such as AR, or VR, to create a more immersive and interactive experience.
  • Measure and evaluate success by tracking metrics; such as website traffic, social media engagement, and sales.
  • Continuously adapt and innovate your brand activation efforts to stay ahead of the curve and ensure that your brand remains relevant and engaging to your target audience.

To conclude, whether your aim is to drive brand awareness, reach a new audience group, position yourself as the leader in your category or inspire behavioural change, it’s important to bring your brand to life with memorable and engaging PR & activation campaigns.

Will Cowell