Is animated marketing the sports industries answer for 2021?

The global sports landscape is overridden with various promotional strategies. Present consumers are bored with typical advertising and will more likely engage with a brand that shows something different. Video marketing with a hint of cartoon animation is a well-seasoned recipe for making an engaging impression to this era’s audience. Multiple sports properties like Borussia Dortmund, Nike and the National Football League (NFL) didn’t hesitate to jump on the animated marketing bandwagon to up their PR efforts.

The National Hockey League (NHL) were pioneers of animated sports content back in 2019. The sports property targeted China as a region to expand in, particularly with a popular cartoon series entitled ‘Super BOOMi’. The narrative consists of the main character, BOOMi, becoming the first bear to program a virtual reality game universe. BOOMi has over 2.6 billion video views, and the NHL proactively developed the first cartoon series dubbed ‘Super BOOMi Hockey Hero’ in China to showcase Hockey through animation. This is proactive in building a younger fanbase in Hockey while expanding the sport towards Asian territories.  

Retired UFC Champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, had an iconic 2nd round win against US contender, Justin Gaethje last year. Although, the build-up was what created mass-media attention. Sports broadcaster, BT Sport, produced an animated short-story about Khabib’s journey into the UFC which accumulated over 900k views on YouTube. This became the most viewed content on BT Sports’ YouTube channel ahead of fight night until BT Sport released Dana White’s reaction to the narrative, acquiring 2.3 million hits. The video hit a profoundly emotional tone considering its emphasis on Nurmagomedov’s father passing being a crucial part of his legacy, which captivated high volumes of empathy. This initiative demonstrates the impact animated video has on driving sport to remain influenced by emotions.

December 2020 saw Borussia Dortmund form a revolutionary merchandise collaboration with the US animated cartoon, Spongebob Squarepants. The merchandise includes Spongebob x Dortmund branded hoodies and T-shirts. Following this alliance, the Bundesliga giants announced a long-term partnership with the kid’s TV channel, Nickelodeon. The two parties plan to work together on a variety of joint activities yet to be confirmed. This is a lucrative opportunity for Dortmund to remain culturally enticed within younger next-gen audiences alongside keeping their brand ‘family-friendly’.

Last month also saw the National Football League (NFL) partner with Nickelodeon to distribute a cartoon-inspired NFL Wild Card game this Sunday. The broadcast will entail virtual filters, on-field graphics; a SpongeBob themed countdown before the game with other animated gimmicks. Again, another youthfully appealing initiative for the NFL to entice further next-gen audiences. Depending on the success achieved, it could stimulate new longer-term opportunities for the sports property. Could a cartoon series of NFL content be unleashed, NFL players gain media rights for cartoon production companies or similar?

Why is animated marketing so powerful?

People SEE your brand

Digital has become one of the most saturated content channels, meaning that sports properties must think uniquely to stay ahead of the curve. Animated marketing does precisely this; it grabs attention and stops the consumer scrolling to consume a brands message. It’s also a productive opportunity to use identity aspects such as slogans, logos and colour codes to boost brand awareness one step further.

People don’t just hear you, they LISTEN

The right combination of sound effects, voice-overs and background music impact your audience in ways you’d never imagine. Sports properties should captivate notable metaphors, and trademark motto’s to encourage a new demographic to consume their message.

Easy to understand

Learning needs to be fun and interactive to increase levels of engagement from your audience. The same applies to your content strategy; it needs to be entertaining for yourself to capture your audience’s attention.

Animation makes email marketing relevant!

Interesting fact, if you add the word ‘video’ in an email subject title, click rates increase by 65%! Social media’s growth has left emails in the lurch for driving traffic; however, executing all of the above through email could change that for a sports brand.


Seeing the benefits that animated marketing brings to the sports industry, animation and sport’s potential is limitless. It could become the norm to see more cartoon series’ holding sports episodes, athletes’ involved in producing cartoons’ or even cartoon-themed commentary options through major broadcasting companies.

Published by Ash

I'm a First-Class Graduate in Sports Business Management who has worked across Local Government, Sport and the Third Sector. Throughout my career, I've developed a thriving passion to promote sport being used as a tool to bring positivity to the world we live in. This ethos has inspired me to create a website which champions this value through comprehensive online content for you to gain value from. Join me on this journey of discovering what sport can do to enhance society.

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