We Are Social launches sport division to capture growing trends around social

We Are Social has launched a dedicated sports marketing division to offer a social-first approach to tackle the changing relationship between sports and social.

Leeding (left) and Weston
Leeding (left) and Weston

We Are Social Sport is the first separate division launched by the agency and comprises a team of 25, led by director Joe Weston and creative director Gareth Leeding. Both Weston and Leeding are We Are Social veterans and will report to the agency's UK chief executive, Jim Coleman.

The division will represent the agency's existing portfolio of clients within the sector, which includes Adidas, Dazn, PlayStation and Gatorade among others. It will offer a full range of services across creative, strategy, editorial, research and insight, and production. The division will also look to expand in three key areas of sports marketing; sponsorships, brands and icons.

"Sports is going through a major change. When you consider the moves that Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchats are making to purchase rights – it's important for us to be at the forefront of this development," Weston told Campaign

In April last year, Amazon beat out Facebook and Twitter for the right to screen NFL's Thursday game. More recently, Amazon prime video secured live and distribution rights for the ATP World Tour until 2023.  

This year, Amazon and Facebook are expected to bid on rights to the Premier League

These moves are in response to client demand, Weston continued. "Sports sponsorship is up but TV consumption is down. It's only natural that the platforms are coming on board."

The advantages of setting up a division is the ability to concentrate all the agency's sport-obsessed talent. 

"Because the key differentiator of sports on social versus almost any other vertical on social is passion and pace. You need to be a fan of sports to do this because there's lots of very passionate fans and news everyday," Weston said.

While sports fanbase does present a naturally engaged audience, it's a cluttered and competitive space. 

"Sports marketing is a saturated environment full of lazy creative following trends, rather than starting them," Leeding said. "We want to rewrite the rules of sports marketing using the power of social, recognising cultural trends and being first to move on them."

"Standing out is a challenge but I believe we can do this. Generating news is not a problem, but you have to capitalise on it," he continued.

An example of this was the transfer of Paul Pogba to Manchester United, Weston said. We Are Social's client, Adidas Football wanted the agency to use the hype around the move in a way that appealed to the brand's target audience - "city-based, football mad, teenagers".

So the agency created a music video with Pogba and grime MC Stormzy in which Pogba showcased his football moves to Stormzy's soundtrack. The collaboration was "accidentally" leaked on social and resulted in more than 30 million views and 400 news articles. 

"We were really able to cut through the usual conversations around money and strategy," Weston said. 

As the rules of sports marketing evolve, the division's goal is to keep itself and its clients up to date and ahead of the curve, Weston said "It's our eye on the future."