The sports market has grown exponentially in recent years – valued at almost $80 billion in the US alone.
Increased participation in community sport, interest in professional teams, year-on-year growth in women’s sporting franchises, and many more trends contribute to this booming sector.
If you’re working in sports marketing, promoting a team, a brand, or a line of accessories, the expansion of this industry is exciting. However, with greater interest comes more competition. You’re all fighting for the attention of the masses with short attention spans and an endless feed of digital distractions.
Instagram is one platform that suits sports marketing perfectly. It’s visual, the engagement rates are high, and it lends itself to an active lifestyle with the type of content shared.
But how do you make Instagram work for sports? I’ve done some digging and found seven first-class examples of sports marketing on Instagram to inspire you. Enjoy!
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1. TaylorMade – Golf
Golf is a sport that just about anyone can play, which is why it is so popular around the world.
TaylorMade is one of the most recognizable golf brands and its Instagram presence represents that status with a whopping 1.3 million followers.
One tactic TaylorMade uses to great effect is the cross-platform quote image. A trend on Instagram at the moment is to overlay a Tweet onto a photo. Of course, not just any Tweet will do. TaylorMade utilizes this tactic to ask questions and encourage their audience to comment on posts. Like in this example which has over 4,000 comments!
TaylorMade on Instagram
Asking a visual question on a topic your audience is interested in is a great way to get more comments on your posts, resulting in greater reach thanks to Instagram’s algorithm. It’s also a smart way to promote your other social media profiles. Viewers of the above post may like to check out TaylorMade’s Twitter profile.
2. Chicago Blackhawks – Ice Hockey
The Chicago Blackhawks are rocking a sweet 1.5 million followers on Instagram. That’s certainly not something to sneeze at!
To satisfy such an enormous audience, they produce a wide range of different content; Stories, Videos, Reels, Guides, User-Generated Posts, and more. Of course, with so much going on it would be easy to get lost when you visit their profile and not find any of this great content. To help categorize the content they publish, the Blackhawks use Instagram’s Highlights feature extremely well.
Chicago Blackhawks on Instagram
You’ll see they have custom icons for each Highlight that uses the brand’s red color, and each one has a clearly defined category. This makes it super easy for profile viewers to find what they want or navigate through content.
3. Portland Thorns FC – Soccer
Portland Thorns FC is arguably the most successful team in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and when it comes to Instagram their engagement rates are impressive.
One thing they do better than most is emphasized their players. Including players in posts really personalizes the brand and helps fans and followers connect on an emotional level. For example, in the Stories Highlights section of their profile, there are Q&As with players:
Portland Thorns FC on Instagram
They also recognize player birthdays, retirements, and other key milestones on their feed – these posts have significantly more engagement than generic photos of the team or game day messages:
Portland Thorns FC on Instagram
Keep in mind that there are humans behind your brand and that’s what people connect with!
4. Planet Fitness – Gyms
Shifting energy away from sports teams for a moment and onto a gym. Planet Fitness has built an extremely memorable brand on Instagram.
What makes it so memorable? Well, quite refreshingly, they’ve left the corporate playbook at the door. The Planet Fitness brand is all about personality and quirkiness. This sentiment manifests as a range of fun and humorous content on its feed, from games to comedy skits, memes, and beyond. You’ll also see the brand’s distinguished purple color in a majority of its posts to reinforce the identity.
Planet Fitness on Instagram
I’m not saying you need to be funny or post a bunch of memes on your Insta feed, but be true to your brand’s personality. Make it shine with everything you do.
5. Mercedes F1 Team – Motor Sports
With a sizable 7.8 million followers, the Mercedes F1 Team is striking a chord on Instagram.
There’s a lot to like; including quote images, behind-the-scenes insights, categorized Highlights, race clips, and more. But one thing that especially stood out was the use of a branded hashtag on their Bio – #WeLivePerformance. While this hashtag doesn’t include its brand name, it is unique to Mercedes and has collated thousands of user-generated posts:
Mercedes F1 on Instagram
Get creative with your branded hashtag so that it doesn’t just sound like a name but also has meaning behind it. Mercedes F1 is all about performance and this hashtag captures its essence.
6. Arizona Cardinals – American Football
The Arizona Cardinals let the content of their sport do all the talking. It’s a simple approach but one that works wonders for this brand.
On top of live score updates during games and still photos of their superstar players, the Cardinals’ Instagram profile is packed full of video content in the Reels and Videos section.
Arizona Cardinals on Instagram
Sport is entertaining as it is, so you don’t need to recreate the wheel when it comes to great content. Highlights will do the trick.
7. HEAD – Tennis
An article on sports marketing wouldn’t be complete without a look at a sporting goods brand. HEAD is a leader in the tennis space and they use Instagram as a channel to proliferate their brand recognition.
As with most sporting goods companies, HEAD collaborates with stars as a way of building credibility and gaining visibility for their products. No player is more prominent in world tennis than Novak Djokovic at the moment, who happens to be sponsored by HEAD. Naturally, he features regularly on their Instagram feed:
HEAD Tennis on Instagram
Perhaps more so than any other industry, people want to emulate the stars they support in sports. Do the things they do and wear the brands they wear. Collaborations are critical in sports marketing on Instagram.
At its core, sports marketing is all about entertainment. People watch sports and support teams to switch off from the grind of the workweek and connect with like-minded fans. Social platforms like Instagram enable you to extend that feeling beyond game day.
The key to success for all these sporting brands on Instagram is fairly simple. I can summarize it into three main points:
- Let the content do the talking. Share LOTS of sporting content in a variety of formats and categorize it using Instagram’s features such as hashtags and Highlights.
- Give live updates during games or events. If you’re marketing a sports team or event, keep followers updated during games and connect in real-time.
- Make it personal. Feature your brand ambassadors, star players, and fans to create an emotional connection that goes beyond a ball or bat.
All-in-all, have some fun! Good luck.