It’s a great time to be a sports fan. The World Series has just wrapped up. Football is in full swing. And this year’s basketball and hockey seasons are still young. Sports and advertising have always been synonymous with each other. There are no better brand ambassadors than professional athletes. They have a way of bringing out a variety of different emotions from athletes and non-athletes alike. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable sports ads of all time.
- Be Like Mike (Gatorade 1992)
With a catchy background song and a montage of kids trying to emulate even the most difficult moves of Michael Jordan’s repertoire, there is a sense of innocence and purity about this Gatorade ad that was first launched in 1992. It captures kids at that age who truly believe that they can be just like their favorite sports stars, and in this case, just by drinking a bottle of Gatorade. While Gatorade had been around many years before Michael Jordan began playing in the NBA, it was the basketball star who truly helped put the sports drink on the map. In honor of his impact, Gatorade re-ran a digitally remastered version of the ad to celebrate its 50th anniversary, along with the hashtag #BeLikeMike. A perfect example of how a great ad will still be relevant 23 years later.
- Find Your Greatness (Nike 2012)
The beauty of this ad comes from the simple message it’s passing on to its audience – that there is something important in each and every one of us, so we should live in the moment and work hard to achieve greatness no matter who you are. Nike went as authentic as they possibly could in this ad. It was a nice change of direction to see an average everyday person, instead of a professional athlete or model at the center of this ad. In a way, it’s as if Nike is saying it is not about consumerism or branding, but that it is all about you.
- Mean Joe Green (Coca-Cola 1979)
Kids will do almost anything for the chance to meet one of their favorite athletes, and in some cases may even get an autograph to take home as a memento. Coca-Cola highlighted this type of moment between a young fan and one of football’s most feared players, Mean Joe Green of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The best part is the buildup where you think Green will give the cold shoulder to an adoring fan, but then a bottle of Coca Cola melts his tough exterior allowing for them to make a connection. This feel good ad puts a smile on your face and also coined the infamous tagline, “Have a Coke and a Smile”.
- RE2PECT Derek Jeter (Jordan Brand 2014)
Sports fans have that favorite athlete they cheer a little louder for when they connect for a homerun or hit that game-winning shot. But in the end, we all know that the day will come when that athlete has to retire. Jordan Brand paid tribute to longtime partner Derek Jeter during his final season in 2014 with this beautifully shot commercial. With fans, celebrities and rivals (note the Mets players and Red Sox fans) tipping their caps, this ad truly captures what makes sports special. This wasn’t an ad about pushing a particular product or brand on the audience. It was about showing appreciation for the accomplishments of one of sports’ favorite athletes. When companies make an ad like this, sometimes it creates more loyalty than a product ad ever could.
Sports ads can invoke a variety of emotions for athletes and non-athletes alike. We all have the mindset of an athlete inside of us, and a great sports campaign can often bring it out in one way or another.