Sports Marketing: 5 Colossal Clangers

Sports marketing can be an extremely tricky business, with the sector littered with examples of campaigns that failed to hit the right note.


Social media has made it much easier for people jump on mistakes, meaning that organisations must be extra vigilant when it comes to their marketing activities.


Avoiding mistakes is not easy and it makes sense for in-house or digital marketing agency staff to spend time researching the biggest fails of all-time in order to avoid making the same errors.


There are been countless instances of organisations running dodgy marketing campaigns in the past,so read on as we look at five of the worst.


MasterCard – Goals for Meals


MasterCard was forced to scrap its heartless ‘Goals for Meals’ marketing campaign after a huge public outcry ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.


The financial services firm pledged to donate 10,000 meals for children in Latin America and the Caribbean each time Lionel Messi or Neymar scored until 2020.


Brazil manager Tite and UK journalist Henry Winter were amongst a plethora of people who blasted MasterCard over the hugely insensitive campaign.


The company subsequently backtracked, announcing it would donate one million meals to hungry children around the world before the end of 2018.


Los Angeles Lakers – Dwight Howard Billboards


The Los Angeles Lakers dropped the ball in 2013 by running a marketing campaign aimed at convincing Dwight Howard to stay with the franchise.


In addition to plastering Howard’s face on billboards around the city, the Lakers also got the begging bowl out with a hashtag campaign on Twitter.


For an organisation that is ranked as one of the biggest and respected in the NBA, this was an embarrassing way to conduct business.


Howard must have felt the same way as he signed for the Houston Rockets that summer, although he subsequently returned to the Lakers in 2019.


Braehead Clan – Socckey Shirts


Although ice hockey is the most watched indoor sport in the United Kingdom, it struggles for air-time against the likes of soccer, cricket and rugby.


With that in mind it is important for clubs to try and stand out from the crowd, but launching a product that blends a soccer jersey and a hockey shirt isn’t one of them.


The launch of Braehead Clan’s ‘Socckey Shirt’ in 2015 attracted howls of derision from UK ice hockey fans, much to the chagrin of the club’s marketing team.


However, the shirt was an affront to the many beautiful soccer jersey designs on the market and was an idea that should have been consigned to the dustbin in double-quick time.


ESPN – #AskEmmert


Many organisations use Twitter hashtag question and answer sessions as a way of increasing engagement on social media.


In theory they are a good idea, but there have been numerous examples of this type of marketing activity descending into anarchy.


ESPN’s decision to run an #AskEmmert Q&A with NCAA President Mark Emmert did not end well, with the hashtag going viral in horrific fashion.


Questions about mismanaging millions of dollars on a building project at UConn, left Emmert and ESPN with egg on their faces.


Adidas – Boston Marathon Email


Runners who completed the Boston Marathon in 2017 received a tactless email from Adidas soon after the event.


The subject line read ‘Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!’, which under normal circumstances might seem innocent enough.


However, in light of the bombing at the 2013 race which killed three people and injured over 250 more, it was pretty thoughtless.


Although Adidas issued an immediate apology, the horse had already bolted and their image definitely suffered a major knock.