1. You can still raise your profile even if you're not in the game
Injured British number one Laura Robson was unable to play Wimbledon this summer but she still enjoyed plenty of airtime as a commentator for the BBC.
Non-sponsors are held at arms length from the action and practically have to sign a disclaimer before they get out of bed during a big event, but there are always other ways to be salient.
One of the first pieces of content to grab our attention during the World Cup build up was Beats by Dre, a campaign so good it doesn’t even need to reference the fitba. It was pitched perfectly to catch the pre-tournament excitement and is hugely empathetic to our sporting heroes as they prepare for their game. The starry line up from across the sporting universe is enough to give it impact without feeling at all gratuitous, a creative challenge others have failed to overcome this summer.
The Tour de France has been a more quietly smouldering ember in the heart of the nation, but with British champions for the last two years. And what's great about the tour is that it inspires those of us who wouldn't be seen dead on one of those razor sharp excuses for a saddle to try out more comfortable bikes too. Halfords has released a brilliant film (ok, yes, we did make it) starring the ruggedly attractive (to women, men and bikes) comedian Tony Hall to bring their quirky tone of voice into the conversation.
2. Doing something unexpected will get you more attention
When Luis Suarez secured his gnashers around the shoulder of an unsuspecting Italian and created the biggest media frenzy of the sporting summer so far, he kindly reminded us of the power of the unexpected.
And what might you expect from a brand which has access to all the megastars of the game and bottomless pockets? An over-indulgent, yet star studded spectacle without a soul?
The fantastic ‘The Last Game’ by Nike is a different story, however. The individual and ownable animation style (if only Nike had ‘owned’ it for the whole series) is intriguing from the start and a brilliant gauntlet is thrown down by the sinister Richard E Grant-esque arch baddie. It’s exciting, inspiring and filmic throughout, and the use of product placement manages to look almost empowering. It’s funny too.
Better still, you know how all comments on YouTube are generally from mud-slinging trolls and that a piece of branded content shouldn’t ever be longer than three minutes (apart from the Lego movie which doesn’t count because, err, it was in the cinema…)? Well, this film is proof that if you get it right, people can’t get enough. Take these comments: "Why couldn't this be longer!? I loved this!", "Loving you more and more Nike.", "We want a full 2 hour movie! Nike, It's awesome!!!!!!!".
"Clone that", indeed.
3. Be aware of lazy stereotypes
Andy Murray has abandoned the popular choice of ‘ex tennis star with attitude’ and earlier this year made the headline-grabbing decision to employ a female coach. Some commentators went so far as to say that 'he should be thanked’ for making the appointment as nobody else in tennis is "letting women in".
Sadly, we are no quicker to let women into branded content around sport, preferring instead the easy sporting stereotype of masculine heroics and camaraderie. This Carlsberg film from last summer so neatly sums up the standard approach to sports content: all adrenaline-pumping, chest-clutching anguish and machismo that I thought it would make a nice proxy for sports content in general.
To be fair to Carlsberg, the brand obviously made an effort to ‘cover off’ the female species as I did spot one particularly terrified female and a small group of them looking incongruously overdressed and prim (picture Angela Merkel out on the town), but apart from that it is wall-to-wall testosterone.
Coke has been using its content this summer to serve the very laudable aim of bringing the World Cup to the people. Even old people. Nay, even old women! Starting with some charmingly charismatic football playing grannies who should be an inspiration to us all and proving that you don’t have to reflect your target audience in your content to attract them.