9 inspiring examples of sports imagery in branding

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Dramatic images of moments in sport have long been used to promote all kinds of brands, both sports-related and general. 

But while most sports imagery in branding verges on the cliched, these campaigns all show how the right shots can be combined with the right message to really grab the consumer’s attention. 

Meanwhile, if you’ve seen a great example of sports imagery in branding, we’d love to hear about it: please share the link in the comments below!

01. ABB

Take Third Street uses gritty, authentic imagery in this campaign for ABB

This print campaign for performance drinks company ABB goes straight for the gut, with a series of authentic shots highlighting the pain and pressure of sports training. The photographs were all taken by Rob Hammer at Quad's, an old-school gym in Chicago, for local agency Take Third Street, and won a Clio Sports Award 2016. You can see more of the ads here.

02. Puma

JWT New York’s campaign for Puma casts sporting celebrities in an earthy light

Created in partnership with JWT New York, Puma’s ‘Forever Faster’ campaign recognises athletes who stand out as individuals through both performance and personality. The print ads all focus around a gritty shot of stars in action, including Usain Bolt, footballers Mario Balotelli, Sergio Agüero (shown) and Marta Vieira da Silva; golfers Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson; and the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team. You can see more of the ads here

03. Bodyform

AMV BBDO’s campaign for Bodyform tackles the taboo of menstruation in sport

This summer, feminine hygiene brand Bodyform launched a campaign tackling the taboo of women playing sport during menstruation. With the arresting tagline ‘No blood should hold us back’, the five print ads harness dramatic photography to tell stories about women who don’t give up. They were created by AMV BBDO London and you can learn more about the campaign here.

04. Gatorade

TBWA Chiat Day combined illustration with Usain Bolt’s image brilliantly

To promote its G-series brand of sports drink, Gatorade teamed up with Usain Bolt for a global campaign. But the world has already seen a million photographs of the world’s fastest man, so lead agency TBWA Chiat Day combined this dramatic shot of Bolt with some stunning illustrative work by Charis Tsevis. You can see more of the ads here.

05. Nike

An image of defiance anchors this Nike campaign by Zou Marketing

In 2014, Chinese tennis star Li Na became the first Asian woman to win a tennis Grand Slam. When she later announced her retirement, Nike paid tribute with this ad encouraging the next generation of Chinese players, created by Zou Marketing. Its tagline ‘Be the Bird that Sticks Out’ was a playful twist on the Chinese proverb, ‘The bird that sticks out always gets shot’; a reminder to follow the rules. You can read more about the campaign here.

06. Sure

This tongue-in-cheek campaign captured the UK zeitgeist during FIFA 2014

At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, referees’ use of a white spray to draw lines on the pitch became a big talking point in the UK. This gave the deodorant brand Sure an idea for a quick, tongue-in-cheek campaign. Created by DLKW Lowe (now MullenLowe), this press ad played on the notion that some deodorants leave white marks on the body, and it quickly went viral on social media.

07. Adidas

These playful ads cleverly combined workout shots with the magazine fold

This 2003 magazine campaign for Adidas was particularly eye-catching, not so much for the photography itself but for the clever way it was positioned across the fold of the magazine. Taglined 'Designed to Move', the ads featuring a series of carefully placed training images were created by TBWA\Hong Kong.

08. England Rugby

VCCP’s campaign brought together rugby players and fans in a visually inventive way

Sporting events are as much about the spectators as the players, and this campaign for English Rugby took that idea and ran with it. In the runup to 2015’s Six Nations tournament, a series of ads created by VCCP called on fans to 'Wear the Rose' and drew a direct connection between public support and the team’s success with the tagline ‘Make them giants’. You can learn more about the campaign here

09. This Girl Can

FCB Inferno used images of real women to encourage female participation in sport

We’ve mentioned this brilliant campaign for Sport England before, but we make no apologies for highlighting it again here. This series of ads, created by FCB Inferno, uses authentic images to make its point that you don’t have to be a particular ‘type’ of women to get involved in sport; everyone can do it. You can learn more about the campaign here.