Sports brands use creative OOH ads to reach and engage with fans

Life is getting back to normal gradually as more than 3.57 billion doses have been administered across 180 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. The latest rate was roughly 30.2 million doses a day. In the U.S., 337 million doses have been given so far. In the last week, an average of 519,678 doses per day were administered. 

The so-called normal life has brought something most of us are craving and that it is attending matches. 

According to Reuters, sports stadiums across England are set to return to full capacity from July 19 after the British government announced the next stage in easing the COVID-19 restrictions. The move means there could be full stadiums for the start of the new Premier League season starting on August 13th. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference: “We will move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus.

“From step four we will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors. We will allow all businesses to reopen, including nightclubs, we will lift the limit on named visitors to care homes and the numbers of people attending concerts, theatre, and sports events.”

Nielsen Sports reports that global sports sponsorship deals alone accounted for almost $50 billion in revenue in 2019, and over $17 billion of that came from deals in the U.S., putting leagues, media owners, marketing firms, and even athletes themselves in a difficult spot. In addition, there are sports-related advertisements. A Nielsen Ad Intelligence report shows that last year, sports-related programming accounted for almost $20 billion in brand investments, with $17 billion (85%) focused on sporting events. Similarly, brands spent close to $1.2 billion on digital advertising on sports-related sites, like official league pages and fan sites.

Creative advertising strategies are being implemented by brands to deliver context-based, timely content in a way that’s relevant and timely and that always sparks the interest of sports enthusiasts who are also paying attention to all the efforts done by those brands.

YouGov conducted online interviews between May 2020 and May 2021. The U.S. data is based on a sample of more than 2,000 adults aged 18+ who responded that esports is a ‘top interest’ or that they are ‘somewhat interested in esports’. More than 1,000 British adults aged 18+ answered the same questions in surveys conducted in Great Britain. The participants of this study were deemed to be ‘avid esports fans.’ According to the study, 68 percent of American esports fans used their phones to search for goods or services after seeing them advertised on a billboard, versus 23 percent of American adults. This group is also more likely to talk about what they’ve seen with friends or family, especially those aged 18-34. The proportion of esports fans who noticed OOH advertising on trains was nearly the same as those who noticed ads on the internet, at 67 and 65 percent, respectively. Furthermore, ads in taxis are more noticeable to this audience than to other adult British consumers. Trust may explain this trend among esports fans. According to a YouGov survey, esports fans in the U.S. (58 percent) and Great Britain (50 percent) distrust TV ads, leaving brands and publishers to explore other ways of advertising.

Let’s go some examples of OOH ads through the past years 

Nike campaign in China

Nike partnered with LeBron to fire back in a positive way in the Chinese market, where the NBA and Lebron enjoy widespread popularity. “This campaign was inspired by that moment, turning a call to be silenced into a platform to speak even louder.” said Nike in a statement. 

Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai created the campaign in order to encourage young Chinese athletes to keep following their passions, including sports. They emphasize Lebron’s efforts off the court, such as opening a school and starting a company. The campaign was launched with OOH in seven Chinese cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Harbin, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Chongqing, and Suzhou.

Kris Bryant Adidas billboard

Kris Bryant, the 23-year-old finished 2015 spring training with a .425 batting average, nine home runs and 15 RBI. in just 40 at-bats in 14 games. After an amazing season for the Cubs, however, the Cubs announced that they were sending him to the minors despite his outrageous numbers. Not putting Bryant on the 25-man roster for the first 12 days of the season adds another year that the Cubs will have with their 2014 top draft pick before he becomes a free agent. Big brands know how to seize opportunities. Adidas, signed Bryant to an endorsement deal, unveiled a billboard outside of Wrigley Field with the caption “Worth The Wait.”

Adidas’ 2006 bridge

One week before the World Cup 2006. This innovative bridge of German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was built on the way to the Munich airport. The ad shows goalkeeper Oliver Kahn crossing the highway to save a goal by the Munich airport, city headquarters of the game. 

New Balance

Kawhi Leonard partnered with New Balance to promote the Toronto Raptors’ final series against the Golden State Warriors in 2019. The company generated a great deal of excitement by placing massive OOH units in both Toronto and San Francisco. Billboards featured headlines such as “Fun Guy” and “Board Man Gets Titles” which showcased his playoff personality. The billboards also displayed warning signs for Golden State with statements like, “the King of the North is Coming”, coupled with the names of the teams Toronto already beat crossed off in big bold X’s. The results were impressive. 

Other creative ideas by sports brands 

Under Armour 

The first ice gym showcased the performance of Under Armour ColdGear. The world’s first ‘Ice Gym’ has been opened by Under Armour and RED, in partnership with IMG Live and Dick’s Sporting Goods, where visitors can experience the tangible impact that ColdGear products can have while training in cold environments.

Fans had an opportunity to put ColdGear to the test inside an igloo leading up to kickoff by stopping by the UA ColdGear Experience where they participated in workouts curated for cold weather, challenges, and won prizes.


The “The Gym is Everywhere” campaign by Reebok turned 6 bus shelters into outdoor gyms around Bogotá and Cali. As part of Reebok’s communications strategy, this campaign has been developed to promote physical activity as a way to improve life quality. At the bus stops, JCDecaux installed gym equipment where people were motivated to stop for a workout session with the support of a professional trainer.

The brand Reebok demonstrated that no matter where you are in the city, you can find a gym. Pedestrians also responded positively to the activity, as evidenced by photos, videos and comments on social media.

Nike’s pop-up store

In 2015, Nike installed cool pop-up spaces located around the city at 348 Bowery in Manhattan, which served as a retail space and an introductory platform for the new Nike SNKRS app. This app, which provides a unique product experience and the ability to purchase sneakers seamlessly. The store hosted restocks of some very sought after shoes, as well as early sales for pairs like the “Metallic Gold” Nike Air Foamposite One. The facade of the Nike SNKRS Station, a massive animated display, features a countdown clock that revealed a new sneaker to be sold at the location each day.


It’s without a doubt that you can capture the attention and hearts of sports fans worldwide just by combining marketing with OOh ads. There is a strong drive to watch live sports in order to participate in the action, among sports audiences. With the best brand awareness campaigns, now is the time to target these audiences with OOH to influence their purchasing decisions. 

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