5 Examples of Brands Newsjacking Big Events to Shape a Marketing Campaign

Learn how to effectively newsjack big events for your marketing campaign and increase brand awareness and reach. Be cautious and follow best practices.

By Will Blunt ・5 min read
Business & Marketing Strategy
Campaign & Contest Ideas
Social Media

Have you ever thought about newsjacking a big event for a marketing campaign? Of course, most brands run campaigns for yearly events such as Valentine’s Day, Black Friday, and Christmas, but I'm not referring to these types of events...Worthy big events are time-bound or one-off events that gain significant global (or at least national) interest. With the right tactics, you can craft a campaign that leverages this fanfare to increase your reach and brand awareness.This strategy is more prominent today than it has ever been with hashtags on social media categorizing all significant world events for brands to jump on board.

A word of caution

Before I get into the examples of brands newsjacking events below, I’d like to issue a word of caution.Newsjacking has a history of going amiss. If you choose the wrong event, show any lack of empathy to affected victims, or inaccurately represent your brand, it can have a lasting and irreversible effect.Here are a couple of newsjacking rules you should abide by to save your brand a whole lot of embarrassment:

  • Choose events that are relevant to your brand. If you manufacture an event to relate to your brand when it clearly doesn’t, it could have the opposite effect and deter customers from buying from you.
  • If people have died, be respectful. This may sound grim, but if a world catastrophe or disaster has occurred and your brand doesn’t show empathy or even address it at all, people could get talking. Whatever you do, don’t newsjack a sensitive event by trying to sell people your products! Urban Outfitters, for example, used the devastating event of Hurrican Sandy to try and encourage online shopping. It didn’t land well with their customers:
Urban Outfitters post about storm and free shipping brand newsjacking

Bad example of newsjacking.

  • Get your timing right. If you jump on a news story too late, the opportunity to ride its wave of attention will be gone. Most big events have a small window of only a few hours before everyone else is on the bandwagon. Be a first mover and reap the rewards.
  • Triple check all the content in your campaign. Whether you’re sending out a simple Tweet or crafting an entire campaign around an event, do your due diligence. Have as many people as possible run their eyes over the content and strategy before you let it out into the wild. You never know how people may interpret your message, and it’s best to be on the safe side.

With these best practices in mind, let’s take a look at some inspirational newsjacking examples.

#1. Big societal changes

Society is always adapting and changing based on the preferences of a generation. This ever-changing nature results in milestone moments which define a country, an organization, or the world as a whole.Whether it’s a landmark decision by the UN or a localized change of law, brands can use big societal changes to align with specific demographic profiles. An example of this is when the US supreme court legalized same-sex marriage in all states. Several big brands immediately showed their support for this decision, including American Airlines with this creative Tweet:

American Airlines post cabin seats in the picture for marriage equality

American Airlines newsjacking example.

#2. Internet Crazes, Fads, and Trends

Social media has changed the way we communicate and interact with each other. The speed at which a new craze or fad can spread is unprecedented. This change in human-to-human communication is why brands choose to newsjack events - they crave fast and immediate growth in awareness.I’ll always remember the YoYo phase that took primary schools in my city by storm when I was a child. There were all sorts of different types of YoYos, everyone had one, and everyone wanted the new style. That was, of course, before social media and the internet.These days, instead of YoYos, crazes are going digital. Whether it’s video challenges such as the #IceBucketChallenge, optical illusions like #TheDress, or trending games such as Pokemon Go, internet fads are fast and furious, and brands want a piece of the action.Dunkin’ Donuts rode #TheDress wave with a creative icing design and some smart copy on Twitter:

Dunkin' Donuts YOYO craze the dress twitter post

Dunkin' Donuts newsjacking.In a unique approach to the #IceBucketChallenge, Samsung poured ice over the Galaxy S5 and then called out their competitors. This video came with mixed reactions from YouTubers though, some suggesting Samsung was unempathetic to the cause this video challenge was supporting. An example of needing to be careful with sensitive events and causes.

#3. Sporting Events

Every year there are big sporting events that form the pinnacle of marketing campaigns for brands. The Super Bowl is a great example. However, there are also less frequent sporting events, such as the Olympics or a sporting world cup, that only happen every other year.France hosted the FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer in 2019. A range of big brands, such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, and Visa, partnered with the event as sponsors. Along with these sponsorships, each brand structured a targeted marketing campaign before, during, and after the event. These campaigns aimed to leverage the goodwill and referral awareness of the event.This video from Adidas on Instagram built anticipation months before the event begun:

Adidas FIFA world cup 2019 instagram post football and blue chair

Newsjacking from Adidas.

#4. Politics

Politics can be a tricky ecosystem for brands. If you lean too far one way, you risk isolating customers. Yet, if you sit on the fence, it can have the same effect!Prominent political events such as #Brexit, Trump’s impeachment, and Harry and Meghan moving to Canada, are hot topics around the world and all over social media. Depending on your target audience, commenting on these political events may be instrumental in building trust with your prospects.HSBC, for example, created a campaign titled “We Are Not An Island” in response to #Brexit and its threat to multi-culturalism in the UK. This campaign was considered by some to be controversial, but it drove home HSBC’s values and aligned them with a distinct customer group.

#5. Hollywood

On a somewhat lighter note than the minefields of a global political landscape, Hollywood events provide regular opportunities for newsjacking. Whether it’s the launch of a new movie, the breakup of a Hollywood couple, or an event such as the Oscars, there will be a hashtag you can highjack.Norwegian airlines famously listed a newspaper ad promoting flights to Los Angeles after Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie split. The headline was “Brad is single”:

Newspaper article about hollywood Brad is single in pink background

Newspaper ad newsjacking example.Verizon used the Oscars to create a red carpet experience for their 5G technology:

Verizon Instagram post 5G right for the red carpet

Newsjacking from Verizon.And, I couldn’t leave out LEGO from this article; they regularly leverage global events, especially movie releases, as part of their product and marketing strategy. Here’s an Instagram post in the lead up to the release of the latest Star Wars movie:

Lego Instagram post star wars the rise of skywalkers

LEGO newsjacking Star Wars.


Newsjacking events can be an excellent way to align your brand with a cause or expose your message to a new audience. However, as with anything on social media, once you jump on board, you lose control of the campaign. Then, it’s up to the world wide web to interpret your intentions.As you can see from the examples above, this strategy comes with its risks. Not everyone is going to be happy with your approach; in fact, sometimes people like to go against the norm and be controversial. In saying that, you shouldn’t shy away from big events because they are essential cogs in the brand ecosystem. Your customers expect you to have an opinion about certain things. So, do so, but ensure you conduct due diligence and triple check the way a campaign will be perceived.How do you plan to make the most of newsworthy events this year?

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About the author

By Will Blunt ・5 min read

Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.

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