Industry Analysis – How Sports Brands Use Social Media

In Social Media & Online PR, The Digital Marketing Blog by Simon1 Comment

sports social media

Social networks have become an increasingly important tool for companies in order for them to help build a closer relationship with their customers. Furthermore, apps and new technologies have revolutionized people’s experiences with brands making them much more instantaneous. Facebook and Twitter are two of the social networks that congregate the majority of people who have an online profile, and this situation represents the perfect opportunity for companies to implement marketing strategies to reach more people than ever before.

However, most organisations do not perform the same tactics in the social network field, there are some which have more impact on people basing their actions on communicating closely with their customers, for instance answering personally to a follower’s questions, and then there are companies that use social platforms only for product promotion.

This article addresses how four of the major sports brands – Adidas, Nike, Puma and Reebok use social networks and what impacts they have produced on those platforms. These well established companies have huge worldwide brand recognition thanks to their advertising campaigns. Their influence extends as far as sport clubs, celebrities and important athletes, for instance Nike have major contracts with superstars such as Rafael Nadal, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo. For these major retail brands social media plays an important role in marketing strategies as it allows consumers to remain updated with the latest products and promotions as well as enabling them to get involved in the wide variety of events and even hear from their sports idols.

Puma Profile

When it comes to the use of social networks, each company has its own way of performing. Puma, which has 9,478,134 Facebook fans and 151,323 Twitter followers, dedicates a lot of their posts to promote new products as well as reminding their audience of classic items. They make great usage of the Facebook photo highlight function as well as encouraging user-generated content such as inviting followers to share photos wearing Puma products.

It’s also interesting to see how Puma make sure they use the latest apps that their target audience are using such as Twitter Vine to facilitate brand engagement and participation.

puma - vine 2

You can also see from the Tweet above that they have quickly adopted the use of Facebook hashtags allowing their audience to find and communicate with Puma much more easily.

Reebok Profile

Reebok use social networks (especially Twitter) to focus their posts on encouraging people to do sport and keep fit, for instance take the case of the following tweet in which the company motivates their followers to retweet the message if they have gone running during the day.

They have 2,139,405 Facebook fans and 114,578 Twitter followers which indicates that this kind of social network strategy may not be paying dividends as their reach is much smaller than their competitors. I’d like to highlight how they’re certainly confusing their consumers by publishing content in different languages on the same page, making you wonder if you’ve accidentally changed the language settings on your Facebook account:

reebok - facebook

They are also focusing the majority of their content around events such as Cross Fit and Fit Club rather than exploiting new technologies or on their athlete relationships to promote to their audience. There’s certainly no direct sell here either, with a very low amount of content to showcase their latest and classic products.

So to recap so far we’ve had some great product promotion and the usage of the latest technologies from Puma as well as how Reebok bring their public events to the forefront of their social media messaging. Now, lets move onto a different type of approach led by the two biggest sports brands out there – Nike and Adidas. Here’s where values and beliefs get carried right through into their social media communications.

Nike Profile

Nike has 14,090,895 Facebook fans and 1,514,164 Twitter followers, which clearly shows they have implemented a targeted strategy which has achieved great success on social media, placing them well above Reebok and Puma on both major social media platforms. The levels of interest and willingness from consumers to follow what Nike does can be put down to the variety of exciting elements that Nike portray through their brand messaging. Firstly, there’s events –

nike - facebook

Nike also use life affirming messages to help deliver their beliefs and strike a chord with their audience:

nike - facebook 2

Another technique is how they keep in regular contact with the people they sponsor, this means the brand image obtains more authority if, for instance, a football player such as Brazil’s Neymar mentions about their products and in this case showcasing how well they look after their beloved stars.

Adidas Profile

Adidas has 14,207,046 Facebook fans and 185,405 Twitter followers, they can often be found delivering intrigue around new products via their posts as well as highlighting their relationships with the athletes they sponsor. One way in which they differentiate themselves is through hashtags, they use them in many of the photos posted on Facebook which allows followers to know that it can be used  to know more about a particular topic or event, for example #standtogether concerning Rugby.

adidas - facebook

On a recent note, they’ve tapped into the Wimbledon fever and the interest of tennis fans who are desperate to see Andy Murray pick up this year’s title. This is also a fantastic way to develop integration between the 2 social media platforms and allow debate to cross-flow.

adidas - facebook

Tapping into sports fans interest in a timely and coordinated fashion has allowed Adidas to generate buzz and mentions during many key sporting periods of the year.

Brand Comparison and Analysis

When it comes to measure the influence that companies are exerting in social networks, a good source to extract the information is seeing the timeline of the amount of likes on Facebook.

facebook - sports analysis

In this way, Adidas is the company with the biggest amount of likes on Facebook, 14,218,896, then Nike with, 14,107,785. We can see that 2012 was a fantastic year in terms of social media fan building for Adidas as they had the biggest growth of the 4 sports brands. This is again prevalent in 2013 as over the last 3 months they’ve had the biggest social fan growth on Facebook 15.12% compared to Nike’s 13.33% – proof that their Facebook efforts are paying off via their usage of hashtags as well as encouraging debate in a wide range of sports and events throughout their communications.


mentions - sports brands

When looking into recent mentions and buzz around the brands Nike is clearly ahead of their rivals when it comes to getting people to talk about their brand. As we can see in June their brand mentions have gone through the roof thanks to product buzz around Nike Air Thermal and Le Bron 10 Low.

Twitter analysis - sports


Key: (Green=Nike, Yellow=Adidas, Blue=Reebok)

Our Twitter analysis shows how on an average basis Nike gains more than twice as much engagement as their rivals Adidas and Reebok as well as clearly showing how well they’re performing in terms of new followers per day.

twitter analsis 2 - sports

Key: (Green=Nike, Yellow=Adidas, Blue=Reebok)

Furthermore, we can see how Nike’s dominance on Twitter is amplified by the fact they deliver far more messaging and communications on a weekly basis, working much harder to bring their products and brand image towards their consumers.

In conclusion

Social networks are a vital platform for the big sports brands to target their products and showcase their promotional activity. There’s clearly a huge audience out there who want to engage with these sports brands and we can certainly see how specific techniques in communications are paying off for Adidas on Facebook and for Nike on Twitter. There’s clear evidence to show how the big sports brands have been taking social media extremely seriously and I believe that by pushing through their key brand values, encouraging consumer engagement through emotion and life affirming messaging, it can serve to enhance customers brand perceptions to greater heights. Having contact and conversation with a brand they trust and love brings consumers a sense of happiness and a sense of belonging to a particular brand is taken to another level by having their sports idols reaffirming these brand beliefs right in front of their very eyes.

If you’d like to talk to us about your Social Media Strategy, give us a call on 01273 733433 or contact us using the form below: 

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