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How Are Fans Reacting To The Latest Sports Ads?

As live sport continues to return to screens around the world, so have the sports ads, with spots from the likes of Nike, adidas and Coca-Cola all playing on fans’ nostalgia and excitement for the return of their favourite competitions.

We’ve put some of these spots through their paces by testing them on UK audiences, using our emotional targeting and testing tool UnrulyEQ, to see who made it to the finish line and who was left at the starting blocks.

On your marks – get set, go!

BT Sport fails to score with Unlimited subs

This spot from BT TV showcases the recent return of the UK Premier League by featuring several famous footballers and their reactions to a new fictional ‘unlimited subs’ rule.

Our analysis shows this ad did not quite hit home, scoring high levels of confusion (22% vs. the UK average of 12%), which was most likely down to the unlimited subs rule not being understood by viewers who aren’t football fans.

The emotional response to this ad was also very low, with the top two emotions of happiness and warmth both scoring below the UK norm. This resulted in a lower-than-average purchase intent score (30% vs. 31% UK norm), while just over half of viewers were able to identify BT Sport as the brand behind the ad.

Adidas looks to sport in times of trouble

This spot from adidas, released at the beginning of August, was timed just as sports began to return to our screens. The ad showcases various sports and plays on the drive, determination and focus of athletes to overcome obstacles in their way, comparing sports to the pandemic and the need for humanity to work towards overcoming the virus.

From looking at our overall data from sporting ads we’ve tested over the past 10 years, we know that sports ads that perform well usually elicit a strong emotional response in viewers and often focus on feelings of happiness, inspiration, amazement and pride.

This ad from adidas was no different, with inspiration playing a huge part, scoring 11% compared to the UK norm of 5%. Happiness was also present throughout the ad, scoring 10% compared to the UK norm of 8%.

The strong positive emotions resulted in the ad scoring above average for all key metrics, with a winning score of 37% for purchase intent compared to a UK norm of 31%.

Nike pays tribute with Mamba Forever


This ad from Nike is a tribute to NBA star Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed away in a helicopter crash at the beginning of the year.

The spot also explores what’s going on in America right now, referencing the Black Lives Matter movement and putting the attention on everyday Americans, mixed in with several sports stars, with the overarching message of how Kobe taught people through sport to be better.

We tested the ad on a UK audience. But how did it perform? Well, Nike is known for evoking high levels of inspiration in their ad campaigns — and this spot is no different. The ad scored a huge 14% for inspiration compared to the UK average of 5%.

It did, however, cause high levels of confusion (19% vs 12% UK norm). This is most likely down to UK viewers not being as familiar with the US sports star and his back story.

Despite this, the ad performed well, coming in slightly above the UK norm for all key business metrics. Brand recall, however, was 51%, with just under half of all viewers not being able to tell which brand the ad was for.

Coca-Cola Enlists Marcus Rashford in Make Your Home the Home End

This spot from Coca-Cola plays on the fact that football fans are having to watch the games from home as stadiums are currently closed to fans.

The ad, which uses the tagline ‘Make Your Home The Home End’, sees a fan’s lounge turned into the subs bench, with football star Marcus Rashford warming up by their sofa.

This spot performed extremely well for purchase intent, with 44% of viewers saying they’d purchase Coca-Cola after having seen this ad compared to the UK norm of 31%.

The spot also achieved an impressive brand recall score of 71%, which is likely down to the brand featuring prominently throughout the ad, as well as a glass of Coca-Cola sitting on the table throughout.

With the uncertain and fast-changing environment we find ourselves in, it has never been more important to test your ads before rolling them out to ensure they resonate with audiences and reflect the tone and mood of the moment.

Click here to find out more about UnrulyEQ, or get in touch to find out more about our offering.