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The Emotional Value of Sports Partnerships in Marketing

by Colling Media - May 21, 2024

The Emotional Value of Sports Partnerships in Marketing

In today’s competitive market, brands that tap into emotions often emerge victorious. Research shows that campaigns with emotional content perform nearly twice as well as those with purely rational content, boasting a 31% success rate compared to 16%​ (Folajomi Ballo). This blog explores how top brands like PepsiCo, Vodafone, and British Gas harness the emotional value of sports partnerships in marketing to forge deep, lasting connections with their audiences.

Understanding Emotional Value in Marketing

Emotional value in marketing refers to a brand’s ability to connect with consumers on a personal level, fostering feelings of trust, loyalty, and love. Psychological research, such as Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions, highlights how emotions like joy, trust, and anticipation drive consumer behavior. Engaging customers emotionally leads to higher loyalty and spending, as evidenced by a Capgemini report showing emotionally connected customers are three times more likely to recommend and repurchase from a brand​ (Search Engine Watch)​.

PepsiCo’s Sports Partnerships in Marketing

Overview of PepsiCo’s Strategy: PepsiCo leverages high-profile sports partnerships in marketing to resonate globally, creating meaningful connections through shared passions.

Example 1: Pepsi and the UEFA Champions League PepsiCo has been a significant sponsor of the UEFA Champions League since 2015. This partnership allows Pepsi to tap into the passionate and loyal football fanbase. By aligning with such a prestigious event, PepsiCo boosts visibility and deepens emotional ties with fans. Check out one of Pepsi’s UEFA Champions League commercials here.

Pepsi’s campaigns often feature top football stars, like Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba, creating a direct emotional connection with fans who idolize these athletes. These ads are crafted to evoke excitement and joy, emotions that are naturally associated with football. The use of popular anthems and high-energy visuals further amplifies this emotional engagement, making the brand an integral part of the football experience for fans​ (Adweek)​​ (Adweek)​​.

Example 2: Gatorade and Athlete Endorsements Gatorade’s endorsements with top athletes like Usain Bolt and Serena Williams are designed to inspire and motivate. These ads highlight the athletes’ rigorous training and triumphant moments, evoking admiration and a sense of aspiration. Watch Gatorade’s ad featuring Serena Williams here.

These ads focus on the athletes’ perseverance and excellence, aligning Gatorade with peak performance and determination. The emotional appeal not only enhances Gatorade’s brand image but also reinforces its positioning as a performance-driven sports drink. This strategic use of athlete endorsements leverages the athletes’ influence, creating a powerful connection with fans who aspire to their level of dedication and success​ (Adweek)​​.

Vodafone’s Engagement in Sports Partnerships in Marketing

Overview of Vodafone’s Strategy: Vodafone’s sports partnerships in marketing enhance brand visibility and emotional engagement, tapping into the deep emotions fans have for their favorite sports.

Example 1: Vodafone and Rugby Vodafone sponsors rugby teams and events, including the British & Irish Lions. Rugby fans’ strong sense of community and national pride resonates well with Vodafone’s brand values. See Vodafone’s rugby campaign here.

Vodafone’s campaigns often highlight the camaraderie and spirit of rugby, fostering a sense of belonging among viewers. These emotional triggers are powerful in building a loyal customer base that identifies with the brand’s values. The consistent presence in rugby not only aligns Vodafone with the sport’s heritage and traditions but also deepens the emotional bond with fans who see Vodafone as a supporter of their beloved sport​ (Adweek)​​.

Example 2: Vodafone and F1 Racing Vodafone’s sponsorship of the McLaren F1 team aligns the brand with the excitement and innovation of F1 racing. This partnership enhances Vodafone’s image of speed and excellence. Watch a Vodafone F1 campaign here.

F1’s high-stakes, adrenaline-pumping races align well with Vodafone’s brand image of cutting-edge technology and high performance. This emotional association helps cement Vodafone’s reputation as a leader in innovation and connectivity. The thrilling nature of F1 racing captivates audiences, and Vodafone’s branding within this context resonates with consumers who value speed, precision, and technological prowess​ (Adweek)​.

British Gas and Its Sports Partnerships in Marketing

Overview of British Gas’s Strategy: British Gas focuses on community and grassroots sports to build emotional connections and trust, emphasizing local impact and family values.

Example 1: British Gas and Swimming British Gas sponsors swimming initiatives, promoting health and fitness among families. This sponsorship builds a trustworthy and community-focused image for British Gas. Check out British Gas’s swimming initiative ad here.

These initiatives are often portrayed in ads that emphasize family values, health, and community well-being, resonating deeply with viewers who prioritize these aspects in their lives. British Gas’s involvement in swimming not only promotes physical activity but also aligns the brand with a wholesome and healthy lifestyle, reinforcing its commitment to customer well-being​ (Adweek)​​ (Adweek)​.

Example 2: British Gas and Grassroots Sports British Gas supports grassroots sports, investing in local communities and youth development. This support enhances long-term loyalty by establishing British Gas as a caring and supportive brand. See an example of British Gas’s grassroots support here.

By supporting grassroots sports, British Gas not only helps develop future athletes but also strengthens its connection with local communities, fostering a sense of pride and gratitude among its customers. This grassroots support is crucial for building a loyal customer base that sees British Gas as an integral part of their community’s growth and development​ (Adweek)​.

Comparative Analysis of Sports Partnerships in Marketing

PepsiCo leverages global events for massive visibility, Vodafone blends prestigious and community sports to appeal to a broad audience, and British Gas focuses on grassroots initiatives to build deep trust. All three effectively use sports partnerships in marketing to build emotional connections, aligning these partnerships with their unique brand identities and goals.

PepsiCo’s strategy of associating with global sports events gives it massive visibility and connects it with a broad audience. Vodafone’s dual focus on prestigious events and community sports allows it to appeal to a wide range of consumers, from tech-savvy individuals to sports enthusiasts. British Gas’s emphasis on grassroots sports helps build a deep, trust-based relationship with local communities, making it a beloved brand among families and local sports supporters.


PepsiCo, Vodafone, and British Gas illustrate the power of emotional value in sports partnerships in marketing, each leveraging different aspects of sports to connect with their audiences. As brands navigate the competitive landscape, those that can tap into the emotional hearts of their consumers will stand out. Marketers should consider how they can integrate emotional value into their strategies to foster deeper connections and drive long-term loyalty.

By understanding and leveraging the emotional connections that sports partnerships in marketing can provide, brands can create more impactful and lasting relationships with consumers, enhancing loyalty and driving business success in a competitive market.

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