It’s a way of life: how to write for sports brands
I have never been particularly athletic.
Of course, if you throw a basketball at me, I’ll know which way the hoop is. But if you ask me about birdies or to explain the offside rule to me … you’re better off somewhere else.
So what do I know about writing for sports brands?
Well, when you think about it, modern labels don’t really talk about sports. They can still craft the kit you need to climb a mountain, run a triathlon, or sweat in a hot yoga class. But what they sell is a lifestyle. A sense of belonging.
And this is something that I can understand. That’s why Adidas came to us for texts and content that would push the boundaries and promote the lifestyle their community dreams of. But more on that later.
Sports brands today don’t just inspire us to do something. Instead, their message is ambitious:
Wear these shoes and you will be part of a global movement.
Wear our logo and you will feel like a professional athlete.
Drink this and you will join the tribe of rule breakers and risk takers.
At the heart of all of these messages is an emotional connection to identity – a vision for the future and a sense of belonging that binds the reader arm in arm with like-minded souls all over the world.
So if it is sport, it is not sport either.
It is no longer enough for brands to fulfill a function. Today, they must also serve a purpose.
Power and rhythm: who not what
How does that translate into your copy and content?
To harness these ambitious messages, the sports brand must create a powerful vision of where you, the customer, will be. The focus is on the future: on who you will become, not what you will do. You don’t just wear these shoes to play a game, you wear them to become an athlete.
Carrying your ambitious message with energy and dynamism means brevity. Pack a punch in a few words.
When we created the campaign for Adidas, we wrote some bold text. Striking. Inspiring. Bold. Impactful. Challenging. The kind of motivational language that sparks dreams and leads to action.
By using energizing and uplifting words, you will get the pulse and heart of your readers racing. You will place them in their own future. Don’t be afraid of repetition, imperatives, and keep it downright active.
And make sure your tone of voice is instantly recognizable and distinct. Apply this test: if you remove the brand name, can you still tell who is speaking?
Understand your audience
When you are selling something based on your aspirations, you need to be sure that you know who you are talking to. After all, if someone wants to become a rodeo rider, a campaign that offers peace and zen simply won’t suffice.
For sports brands, the psychographic profile of the audience is as important as its demographic profile. You have to figure out how their brains work and what thoughts are driving them.
What motivates them to play sports? What does it represent? What role does it play in their life?
Tap into these underlying drivers and you’ll speak in words that your customers will understand emotionally and viscerally.
Interviewing buyers is a great way to capture data from the voice of the customer, so you can reflect their own language to them. Use storytelling to tap into their goals and fun points, and tap into values such as bravery, strength, and friendliness. Use the power of “you” (addressing the reader in the second person) and speak to one person to make your copy feel like a real conversation.
Always lead with benefits
With any product, the most influential copy offers benefits, not features.
No one knows what “4000 individual air pockets” mean to them. But if you’re talking about air support reducing injury and cushioning the ankles, which means you can spend more time doing what you love, all of a sudden I’m all ears. You gave me a tangible advantage that I want.
The ad and the copy of the website in particular are read in the blink of an eye. So unless the reader sees something that is for them, you blink and they’re gone.
Get these benefits up front so they can’t be missed. Above the fold, and throughout the page, ad, email or newsletter.
Give people what they want
Finally, inject science into your content plan and build your strategy around ambitious as well as practical search terms. Think about “how to be an athlete” as well as “how to run faster” and “comfortable tennis shoes”.
Build a community around your products that people can join. We are social animals, so cultivate a shared identity with brand ambassadors, interactive engagement, and a campaign that invites responses and participation.
For Adidas, we reached out to the global outdoor sports community, forging bonds and solidarity (and increasing sales by 14% along the way).
If you speak powerfully and creatively about ambitious ideas, your copy and content will be great for the money.
Konrad Sanders, Founder, CEO and Content Strategist at The Creative Copywriter.