Learn all about Sportswashing and how it affects Sports Marketing. Sport, in its various disciplines, is a practice that exalts nations, fills their fellow citizens with pride, and can show the best side of a country in the United States and many other countries.


However, sometimes, certain sporting events tarnish their reputation by being linked to governments whose practices are not the best, as well as by carrying out renowned activities in countries that are not in line with prevailing social and human worldwide norms.


To try to validate this type of event, the organizers, as well as the countries, seek the sponsorship of renowned brands and alliances with favorite teams, which have a good track record and a high number of followers and fans and manage to divert the attention of another type of circumstances of a social or political nature that arise in the host country.


All this seeks to improve the image of a government or the perception that the rest of the world may have regarding a specific country. This includes its customs, way of governing, specifically its practices regarding the prevalence of human rights.


This is known as Sportswashing, which does not have to do with the monetary aspect. Although this factor influences, it is more inclined to clean up the moral image of a country where many brands participate as sponsors and ambassadors engaging in advertising.


But how does this work, and how can it affect a brand? Continue reading so that you know about this practice that is so current today.


What is Sportswashing?


BluCactus - sports marketing - FIFA 2023Sportswashing is the practice carried out by a person, group, corporation, or nation-state. It involves using a sport or a major sporting event as a marketing strategy to improve a damaged reputation caused by bad political or social practices.


Thus, sportswashing is carried out by the organizations of sporting events, the purchase or sponsorship of teams, or through participation in the sport itself. Therefore, brands play a relevant and determining role in this.


At the state level, this is a sportswashing done to clean up the image of a government. To divert attention from the history of erroneous practices regarding the protection and prevalence of human rights and other types of scandals, they need to get away from the local and even global public eye.


How brands and advertising influence sportswashing


BluCactus - sports marketing - FIFA 2023Sportswashing is a strategy that could be understood as how a country or government shows itself to the world in an attempt to improve its image and reputation. Brands sponsor events. In places whose policies are in question, sportswashing is considered a way of advertising or marketing.


However, the presence of brands is necessary for sportswashing because they serve as an endorsement of competitions and tournaments. The more recognized the sponsors are, the greater acceptance they will have on the part of the public. It will also serve to convince those who are reluctant to attend or participate in any way, either as a protest or to go against the host country’s values.


In sportswashing, athletes use sport by appealing to the feelings of fans, spectators, and followers to change the perception of a country, its government, and even people or individuals. For example, an athlete involved in a scandal or who has participated in activities or attitudes contrary to morality and good customs.


Therefore, when seeing a well-known sponsoring brand or institution such as UNICEF or Emirates, among others, many people probably look at the event with different eyes and perceive it differently. They end up accepting it and even attending games without considering or actively criticizing the policy that governs the host country.


Sportswashing features


BluCactus - sports marketing - FIFA 2023

  • It seeks to improve the reputation of countries with regimes that violate human rights and have poor foreign policy records.
  • Achieve popular acceptance through the participation of recognized brands, including sports and entertainment personalities.
  • There is a justification for the enjoyment of the sport.
  • It is a way of advertising.
  • A large amount of money is invested to achieve the goals.







Sportswashing and history


BluCactus - sports marketing - FIFA 2023Sportswashing is not something remotely close to our time today. It is a fairly old practice since the Berlin Olympic Games, held in 1936, and the Soccer World Cup in Italy in 1934, when Italy was held under Nazi and fascist regimes. These are the first cases of sportswashing in history. Although the respective rulers did not seek to cover up their actions, they did aim to exalt their nationalism, political system, and image before the world. Therefore, it is also considered a case of sportswashing.


Another almost emblematic one was the Soccer World Cup in Argentina in 1978, a country that two years before had gone through a coup and was governed by the armed forces under a repressive regime. The sporting event was used by the government and by some human rights organizations to make propaganda about the national reorganization process.


Throughout the years, and even more so today, we have seen how sports competitions are carried out in countries where there are evident violations of human rights or that are governed by oppressive governments. The most recent example is the Qatar Soccer World Cup 2022, which was held recently. Days before its inauguration, the boycott and protests will intensify over the working conditions of those who dedicated themselves to building the stadiums and the prohibitions for the tourists, among others. 


Sportswashing and Marketing


BluCactus - sports marketing - FIFAAs we mentioned before, brands play a fundamental role in this sportswashing strategy. A recognized and respected name in the commercial environment that lives as a sponsor in a relevant event will give it validity and boost public acceptance, even when it is held in countries far removed from good human, political, and social practices.


In many cases, brands are driven by the desire and objective of gaining more customers, being recognized, and achieving the visibility they need to position themselves. However, along the way, they may encounter offers to participate in events classified as sportswashing, which puts them on the wrong side and gives the wrong message to the public.


Consequences for a brand being part of sportswashing


BluCactus - sports marketing - FIFACertainly, a brand may have established a contract with a sporting event long before selecting the venue where it will be held. In legal terms, it could be cumbersome not to comply with a contract and the monetary losses that it would entail. However, the viewing public cannot know these details on many occasions.


Therefore, if the sponsoring brand does not establish a strong and well-defined position of its values ​​and objectives and its relationship with the event or its organizers, it may fall into the same bag as these.


In general, it could confuse the true meaning of why they are participating and associate them with a simple unscrupulous profit at the expense of repression.


BluCactus - sports marketing - SportswashingTherefore, a brand cannot assume a duality concerning its position. It must decide if it will work based on a current of, for example, inclusion and sustainability and in favor of creating a better society for all, or it will tip its balance in favor of supporting oppressive regimes.


For this reason, it is important to make the position very clear since the risk and consequences of not doing so are significant.


When creating an association, mutual support is also born; the brands invest a lot of money to improve their image. Yet, if a sporting event becomes contaminated in the eyes of the fans, this will reach and infect the brand in the same way.


Solutions for brands


BluCactus - sports marketing - FIFA - SportswashingThe essence of sport is, first of all, health. At the same time, it contains an endless number of positive values, both personal and social. For this reason, it is well-received whenever we see a brand linked to a team or a particular sporting event since both organizations share the same meaning.


Although, if the person behind the organization of a championship or at the head of a team is a bad actor, this calls into question those campaigns for social causes and all the publicity created around giving visibility to the event.


Before this situation, brands could play a key role in establishing standards and take advantage of their presence to speak out against the lack of ethics and practices in sports sponsorship. Since there are divided opinions among fans, there is no it can be assumed that everyone cares or ignores it.


One solution is not to participate as an official sponsor of an event that is a case of sportswashing. In this way, they can operate more safely without being compromised by the event organizers or the host country and logically avoid affecting the brand’s image.


Ken Schreck BluCactus +1 469 206 5510The relationship of sportswashing with brands must be treated with kid gloves. Image is everything in this field, and with the rise of social media, reality can now be distorted.


If you want to improve your brand’s perception and increase your clientele and sales, you are in the right place with the experts at BluCactus.


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Top 5 Important Sports Marketing Strategies. What do you think of when you hear sports marketing?


While Super Bowl commercials and athlete endorsement deals are well-known examples of sports marketing in the real world, sports marketing also includes marketing strategies. It plans to build a brand around health or inspiration. Using sports marketing strategies can add serious appeal for many consumers, from young to old.


You can be encouraging, empowering, or whatever message and company image you’re attempting to convey. The tone and personality of sports, athletics, or fitness brands can make or break how successful you are. 


Sports Marketing may seem like a particular subsection of marketing; however, it is allencompassing and covers many different business sectors. There are many similarities to other types of marketing, but other factors make it unique.


Learn what it takes to create professional sports marketing strategies by studying these top 5 elite unmatched strategies!  


Focus on One Target Audience


BluCactus - Focus on One Target AudienceYou may ask yourself: How do I make my product or service stand out? 


In sports marketing, there are thousands of competing products and similar services, some of which even have similarsounding names. It’s extremely easy for whatever you’re trying to promote to get lost in the shuffle. 


It would help if you focused on your niche. This is part of the market you are meant to specialize in. In sports, it can mean many different things, but it can refer to: 


  • Location (customers, workplace, HQ, physical channels)
  • Age
  • Interests (Hobbies and market similarities
  • Lifestyle
  • Income
  • Seriousness/Product Level (Amateur, Professional, Recreational, Children’s)


There’s a priority to differentiate what you’re doing and to have a clear image of what exactly you’re bringing to market. A rollout timeline or goal-oriented ideas of achievement can help push your sports marketing to the next step. 


Gaining actual users and customers is the next step. Strategies such as search engine optimization basing decisions on analytics are an excellent way to guarantee clicks. 


But there are other ways of getting your name out there in marketing. You might find yourself lost here if things are being promoted quickly. You’ll be thinking hey, how do I build traction online?


Use Influencers Through social media


BluCactus - Use Influencers Through social media for your sports marketing strategyEngaging audiences in any business and platform is about building trust and genuine connections. Social media influencers are a super impactful marketing tool, specifically those that hold a prominent voice in sports or athletics, are a super impactful marketing tool. 


These influencers can directly sell anything you can offer, serve as a reputable source, and even show off the product in content or pre-video advertisements. 


Social media has been an emerging source of marketing over the past couple of decades, and now with the introduction of shortform content and the rise of platforms such as TikTok, collaborating with an influencer prominent in the field you’re working with is essential for you and your advertising message to be heard. An influencer will make your business communications sound a lot more authentic.


There’s more to social media and online platforms than just that. What else could you use to optimize socials? 


Create Tailored Custom Content


BluCactus - Create Tailored Custom ContentIf there is one thing sports fans and your customers are always in love with, it is engaging content with their favorite sports in the spotlight. The main gist and focus should be skilled athletes or whoever will use your product or service proficiently. Your user base will appreciate it. 


Brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Lululemon consistently make content pieces and videos to promote their sales. Sometimes, you won’t even know you’re watching branded content until the outro plays, and by that point, the customer is usually sold. 


You need to maximize the pre-existing networks of enthusiastic sports fans by scratching the itch of need and what they want to watch. You will open up your audience to new capacities and, hopefully, introduce them to what you’re marketing. 


Enable Promotions & Giveaways


BluCactus - Enable Promotions & Giveaways for your marketing strategySome of the most exciting elements of sports marketing come from its ties to popular sports and athletes. When developing your sports marketing strategy, consider that you’ll need to encourage people to use your product or service. Both literally and figuratively, are they buying what you’re selling?


Using promotional contests is a fantastic way to get individuals involved. Contests can draw interest in your company’s ideals and attract new followers to engage with your social media platforms. Promotions can create buzz and enhance customer outreach and interaction tenfold, especially if you have a face or motivating factor behind the brand. 


Be Relevant


BluCactus - american football - Sports Marketing StrategiesFinally, it’s crucial to further the boundaries of traditional marketing and look for ways to promote corporate social responsibility in your brand.


Working with charities, the military, and many existing non-profit sports programs can help elevate your company’s credibility in athletics. Little leagues, after-school programs, and matching donations with a publicity campaign can uniquely align your brand’s name with events people care about. 


Now more than ever, individuals care deeply about what a company stands for and who they are aligned with. Do you want to have your own image? Do you want to stand out?


All of these are possible. However in the 21st Century, there is an ongoing need to control public relations around these issues, especially for industries about fitness and expensive sports franchises. 


There’s a lot of good to be done and money to be made, but it’s not an easy roadmap. 


Despite so much to manage, these five strategies can help streamline and innovate your marketing goals. Sports & Leisure, Athletics, and Fitness are all innovative industries  with exponential growth. It is just a matter of executing it all correctly.


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