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How do sports ads make people feel?

This week we announced the exciting news that Formula1.com outstream video is available exclusively through UnrulyX!

Formula1 join an existing roster of premium sports titles including talkSPORT, GiveMeSport and Sport Bible.

Sports ads are renowned for evoking strong emotions in viewers, especially if they involve an individual, team or sport that they particularly enjoy.

Think career-defining goals, record-breaking F1 racers flying over finish lines, incredible slam dunks and 160 mph slow-mo tennis serves (the stuff that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up straight).

Come with us on a journey through some of the most incredible sporting ads to see how brands and advertisers evoke happiness, inspiration, amazement and other powerful emotions all through the power of sport.

FIFA World Cup

In 2014, McDonald’s launched ‘Gol!’, an ad that promoted their sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. It’s still one of our favourite sports ads of all time and tops the league of most emotional football videos.

This is thanks to the remarkable levels of amazement registered in response to the football skills shown. Further amplified by the powerful way in which the video showed that anyone can be great at football and to not judge people’s ability on their appearance.

When looking at viewer responses to the ad we saw that high levels of amazement, happiness and warmth were present across both male and female audiences. Showing that feats of sporting skill, in combination with a sense of unity, are an effective way to resonate with all audiences.

Another football ad that had a very strong intense emotional response was Carlsberg’s ‘Fan Academy’, which was launched in the UK in 2012 for the UEFA Euro 2012 competition.

This video successfully captured the English spirit and culture around football, allowing viewers to really connect and engage with the ad, whether a big football fan or not the video resonated strongly with most viewers.

Although the emotional profile of both male and female audiences differed slightly, this England-centric ad successfully provoked intense emotional responses across both genders, in spite of the lack of female representation.

Whilst males were more likely to feel proud and inspired by the patriotic (and somewhat bizarre) approach, females were more likely to laugh at the carousel of exaggerated and stereotypical male football fans on display.

The Olympics


Moving on to arguably the greatest sporting event of all time, the Olympics. If you were to compare the emotional profile of an Olympics ad to your average ad, you’ll see that pride, exhilaration and inspiration stand resolutely at the top of the podium. Whilst looking at all the Olympics ads we’ve tested we found that:

  • Inspiration is the strongest emotion felt by both men and women – double our Global Norm;
  • Pride is also greater for both men and women, showing an average increase of 183% for men and 150% for women compared to our Global Norm;
  • Exhilaration sees an average increase of 75% for both men and women

The top emotions for all audiences were inspiration and amazement, with happiness and pride coming in at a close second place.

Channel 4 packed a punch with their 2016 ad ‘We’re the Superhumans’.

The ad was the most shared ad of the 2016 Olympics, with more than half of viewers having a more favourable view of Channel 4 having watched the ad which is considerably greater than our Global Norm. This result was driven by almost two-thirds of 18-34-year-olds saying they now had a better perception of Channel 4.


Traditionally, Super Bowl ads are some of the year’s funniest in America, with many evoking a combination of uplifting, nostalgic and laugh out loud ads (think Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage’s rap battle, Harrison Ford’s eccentric dog and giant running ketchup bottles).

One of the most stand-out ads we’ve tested came from the NFL sporting body and ran during the infamous 2018 Super Bowl.

NFL’s Touchdown Celebrations featured two of the sports most well-known athletes, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.

The athletes gave a hilarious rendition of the iconic dance from Dirty Dancing which unsurprisingly resulted in a considerably above-norm result for hilarity.

This sporting ad not only generated the greatest levels of happiness of all the 2018 Super Bowl but gave one of the highest results across all our videos. For the full analysis of the ad check out our Super Bowl LII Video Impact Study.

So, what have we learnt?

As we’ve seen, sports ads are likely to elicit a strong emotional response in viewers. Interestingly, this improved response is consistent across both males and females which indicates that it is possible to resonate strongly with both genders using sports specific content.

This is particularly true in relation to big sporting events like the FIFA World Cup, the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Especially if the content promotes feelings of happiness, inspiration, amazement and pride.

To find out more about the exclusive UnrulyX Sport Marketplace, or to find out how we could help knock your ads into shape get in touch!