Leveraging High Profile Sports Partnerships

We recently received this request from one of our members, looking to tap into marketing and PR opportunities which can be beneficial to the destination's image by working with high profile individuals around sporting events and teams.

I am looking at leveraging potential opportunities in working with high profile sporting events or teams where we can build partnerships and collaborations with athletes, tapping into follower communities.

We recently received this request from one of our members, looking to tap into marketing and PR opportunities which can be beneficial to the destination's image by working with high profile individuals around sporting events and teams.

It goes without saying that the influence a high profile athlete can bring is significant, so negotiating good partnerships can really be worth their weight in gold. As every destination is unique, considering what the destination's key characteristics are and how that might tie-in with sports personalities is crucial.

It's also worth remembering that just as with influencers, bigger isn't always better. It may seem obvious to go after the household names who'll attract the biggest media coverage, but niche personalities may offer a more nuanced or engaged angle with their fans and therefore create a richer connection with the destination.

We had a quick scan to see who's doing amazing things with sports personalities and here's what we came across. Here are nine great examples.

1. Switzerland Tourism

Hot off the press, Switzerland Tourism only today announced their new collaboration with Roger Federer, with a dedicated key story 'Roger Federer's Choice'. This partnership with the world famous Tennis Player who's originally from Switzerland kicks off with an interview together with Switzerland Tourism's CEO, Martin Nydegger.

Roger Federer has been a prominent Swiss figure on the world stage for many years and is an authentic ambassador for Switzerland. Roger will act as an ambassador and help promote Switzerland with a strong focus on international markets. Bringing only good things through this partnership, Roger's fee for this is being donated entirely to worthwhile projects in Switzerland, with the first being the construction of a new children's playground.

2. Slovenia Tourist Board

A late addition to this list is Slovenia's celebration of football, announcing that they will host the UEFA European Football Under-21 Championship with Hungary and Slovenia. This marks an opportunity for Slovenia to market the destination as a Sports tourism destination and use the power of ambassadorship, as shown in this video, to drive interest and awareness around the destination.

Another great example of how important it is to work with sports personalities to create curated content pieces speaking to their passion, thus igniting the passion of their fans.


3. Catalan Tourist Board

Catalan Tourist Board have worked for many years together with FC Barcelona as part of a long-term brand partnership. This partnership has given them access to brand licensing opportunities and players which they have maximised to their advantage in taking the brand and awareness of Catalunya to the world stage.

Here's an example of how Gerard Piqué works with the Catalan Tourist Board to reinforce association with the 'Challenge' angle of the Catalan brand.

Putting himself to the test, surpassing himself, growing. The message here is clear: the diversity of his homeland and his desire to learn, innovate and discover have made him who he is.  

The link between sporting legends and the theme of sport is one that extends beyond the 'Accept The Challenge' campaign. In 2020, the Catalan Tourist Board announced the Year of Sports, using this brand reputation as an opportunity to launch a whole series of initiative, content and campaign messaging highlighting the many sporting opportunities Catalunya offers.


4. Visit California

Visit California are of course famous for their 'Welcome to California' celebrity filled ads, a prominent feature of prime time TV placements over the past ten years. When it comes to celebrity, they are certainly able to call on some favours in amongst the star studded Californian celebrity landscape.

If we look to more recent times however, we see that Visit California have fostered more of a partnership approach. During the devastating wildfires, they saw a raft of well known figures stepping forward and calling others to support California during its time of need. This in kind support, perhaps represented the start of a new kind of relationship with big ticket celebrity partners.

To focus on sports here, we've pulled out a series which is simple, yet works really well, where Visit California have developed a series known as 'California Questionnaire' (yep, original), with a range of interviews with well known athletes, artists, celebrities and architects, amongst many others.

What's the difference here? Well, this shows the value of going underneath the skin, developing a more nuanced range of perspectives where the value they offer is about content richness more than reach. The authority of their opinion and reputation speaks for itself. When that can be matched with the destination and their origins as an artist, athlete or celebrity, it can be a very powerful take on traditional destination storytelling. Mix in new media such as sequential video, podcasts and other formats and you have a perfect stream of powerful content.

This is an example of Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark's interview, just one of many that can be found on Visit California's consumer site.

5. Visit Jersey

Certainly worth a mention here is Visit Jersey, host of DTTT Campus 2018. Jersey have been trailblazing the value of working with island ambassadors ever since the relaunch of #theislandbreak brand. The most notable ambassador has been the endurance athlete Sean Conway, who became the first person to cycle, swim, and run the length of Great Britain, from Land's End to John o'Groats. In 2016 he completed the world's longest triathlon, a 4,200 mile journey around the coast of Britain.

From Sean Conway's 48 Hours in Jersey, to tackle as many outdoor adventure activities on the island of Jersey as possible, to his return two years later for the Break Swimrun, Sean has become a true ambassador for The Island Break, reinforcing the brand values of achievable, bitesized adventure.

6. Tour de Yorkshire

The official DMO for Yorkshire 'Welcome to Yorkshire' have been capitalising on cycling ever since they the starting stage of the Tour de France back in 2014. It shows the value of securing such high profile events and the opportunity to create a legacy as a destination.

With the Tour de Yorkshire, they have certainly done this in an impressive way. By developing and extending the race as something which continues to 'live on' in Yorkshire year after year, they have successfully used this as an opportunity for brand and product development, securing private sector sponsors, developing a range of routes and continuing to use it as an opportunity to show the stunning landscapes as a backdrop to road cycling.

In 2019, the legacy extended further with a partnership formed between Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit Flanders to link these two cycling destinations, albeit with very different terrain and build on the synergies between them. Read more here.

7. Visit Flanders

Continuing with the same theme, Visit Flanders and regional destinations in such as Toerisme Oost-Vlaanderen have been working hard to develop the cycling theme through both brand work and product development extensively.

In this talk, you'll hear Elke Dens from Toerisme Vlaanderen talk about what cycling means to Flanders as a destination and how it fits in with their wider strategy around regenerative tourism.

Work on this theme goes further than just brand campaigns but a wider development of the overall offering and iconic link between the sport and the destination. With the development of sites such as Cycling Flanders, we see the theme of cycling going the step further and bringing on-board commercial partners, such as Strava, which helps Flanders tap into that highly engaged sporting community, all ran on Strava and integrated into different challenge pages on the Cycling Flanders website. This is a great example of going much further in engaging with a sporting community, building relationships around competitive sport and highlighting the value of tapping into niche segments in a very specific way.


8. Tourism Australia

Okay, this one isn't related to sports personalities, but it is an interesting one nonetheless in working with globally renowned figures to raise the profile of your destination. Tourism Australia contracted Chris Hemsworth to front a number of videos to create a hero profile for the destination in both a powerful and evocative hero style and also a more humorous take on Crocodile Dundee.

This first video stands out as a perfect example of a best practice when it comes to destination hero videos, showcasing all key touchpoints of the brand's pillars and offering an inspirational 'spark' towards deeper brad discovery. This is supported by richer content in but hub and immersive 360° content taking each of the scenes further.

In this sequel in 2018, we see Chris Hemsworth working with Tourism Australia to pitch the destination with the claim that Dundee is not in Hollywood but in the Outback. This was aired during the Super Bowl, one of the most significant airtime slots in media.

9. Oslo X Games

One of our earliest Case Studies shot back in 2015 was with Visit Oslo, looking at how they managed to exploit the opportunity of the X Games coming to Oslo. This is one of the earliest examples of destinations recognising the value of digital and social media engagement over traditional media.

The Winter X Games has allowed Oslo to target a whole new audience in new markets, such as Brazil, where their traditional set of followers naturally convert to discovering a city like Oslo in a whole new light, around snowboarding and other sports.

The success of this depends on more than just working with sports personalities however. Key to the success of this has been leveraging the full potential of athlete social media channels and perhaps even more importantly, being as a destination in securing such events in the first place.

10. Visit Scotland

Visit Scotland have long fostered a relationship with the famous mountain biker, Danny MacAskill. Clocking up millions of views on YouTube for each of his eye watering videos, Danny is a true online influencer amongst a niche community passionate about extreme sports.

The visual and adrenaline impact of his rides and the way in which they're shot makes for highly viral content, whilst the epic views of Scotland feature everywhere, making for a very powerful showcase and key tactic in reinforcing Scotland's brand awareness.

Complimenting an ongoing stream of incredible content, often secured in partnerships with YouTube and RedBull, Visit Scotland, like many others, have created a complimentary set of content giving Danny's take on Scotland's trails.

I am looking at leveraging potential opportunities in working with high profile sporting events or teams where we can build partnerships and collaborations with athletes, tapping into follower communities.

We recently received this request from one of our members, looking to tap into marketing and PR opportunities which can be beneficial to the destination's image by working with high profile individuals around sporting events and teams.

It goes without saying that the influence a high profile athlete can bring is significant, so negotiating good partnerships can really be worth their weight in gold. As every destination is unique, considering what the destination's key characteristics are and how that might tie-in with sports personalities is crucial.

It's also worth remembering that just as with influencers, bigger isn't always better. It may seem obvious to go after the household names who'll attract the biggest media coverage, but niche personalities may offer a more nuanced or engaged angle with their fans and therefore create a richer connection with the destination.

We had a quick scan to see who's doing amazing things with sports personalities and here's what we came across. Here are nine great examples.

1. Switzerland Tourism

Hot off the press, Switzerland Tourism only today announced their new collaboration with Roger Federer, with a dedicated key story 'Roger Federer's Choice'. This partnership with the world famous Tennis Player who's originally from Switzerland kicks off with an interview together with Switzerland Tourism's CEO, Martin Nydegger.

Roger Federer has been a prominent Swiss figure on the world stage for many years and is an authentic ambassador for Switzerland. Roger will act as an ambassador and help promote Switzerland with a strong focus on international markets. Bringing only good things through this partnership, Roger's fee for this is being donated entirely to worthwhile projects in Switzerland, with the first being the construction of a new children's playground.

2. Slovenia Tourist Board

A late addition to this list is Slovenia's celebration of football, announcing that they will host the UEFA European Football Under-21 Championship with Hungary and Slovenia. This marks an opportunity for Slovenia to market the destination as a Sports tourism destination and use the power of ambassadorship, as shown in this video, to drive interest and awareness around the destination.

Another great example of how important it is to work with sports personalities to create curated content pieces speaking to their passion, thus igniting the passion of their fans.


3. Catalan Tourist Board

Catalan Tourist Board have worked for many years together with FC Barcelona as part of a long-term brand partnership. This partnership has given them access to brand licensing opportunities and players which they have maximised to their advantage in taking the brand and awareness of Catalunya to the world stage.

Here's an example of how Gerard Piqué works with the Catalan Tourist Board to reinforce association with the 'Challenge' angle of the Catalan brand.

Putting himself to the test, surpassing himself, growing. The message here is clear: the diversity of his homeland and his desire to learn, innovate and discover have made him who he is.  

The link between sporting legends and the theme of sport is one that extends beyond the 'Accept The Challenge' campaign. In 2020, the Catalan Tourist Board announced the Year of Sports, using this brand reputation as an opportunity to launch a whole series of initiative, content and campaign messaging highlighting the many sporting opportunities Catalunya offers.


4. Visit California

Visit California are of course famous for their 'Welcome to California' celebrity filled ads, a prominent feature of prime time TV placements over the past ten years. When it comes to celebrity, they are certainly able to call on some favours in amongst the star studded Californian celebrity landscape.

If we look to more recent times however, we see that Visit California have fostered more of a partnership approach. During the devastating wildfires, they saw a raft of well known figures stepping forward and calling others to support California during its time of need. This in kind support, perhaps represented the start of a new kind of relationship with big ticket celebrity partners.

To focus on sports here, we've pulled out a series which is simple, yet works really well, where Visit California have developed a series known as 'California Questionnaire' (yep, original), with a range of interviews with well known athletes, artists, celebrities and architects, amongst many others.

What's the difference here? Well, this shows the value of going underneath the skin, developing a more nuanced range of perspectives where the value they offer is about content richness more than reach. The authority of their opinion and reputation speaks for itself. When that can be matched with the destination and their origins as an artist, athlete or celebrity, it can be a very powerful take on traditional destination storytelling. Mix in new media such as sequential video, podcasts and other formats and you have a perfect stream of powerful content.

This is an example of Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark's interview, just one of many that can be found on Visit California's consumer site.

5. Visit Jersey

Certainly worth a mention here is Visit Jersey, host of DTTT Campus 2018. Jersey have been trailblazing the value of working with island ambassadors ever since the relaunch of #theislandbreak brand. The most notable ambassador has been the endurance athlete Sean Conway, who became the first person to cycle, swim, and run the length of Great Britain, from Land's End to John o'Groats. In 2016 he completed the world's longest triathlon, a 4,200 mile journey around the coast of Britain.

From Sean Conway's 48 Hours in Jersey, to tackle as many outdoor adventure activities on the island of Jersey as possible, to his return two years later for the Break Swimrun, Sean has become a true ambassador for The Island Break, reinforcing the brand values of achievable, bitesized adventure.

6. Tour de Yorkshire

The official DMO for Yorkshire 'Welcome to Yorkshire' have been capitalising on cycling ever since they the starting stage of the Tour de France back in 2014. It shows the value of securing such high profile events and the opportunity to create a legacy as a destination.

With the Tour de Yorkshire, they have certainly done this in an impressive way. By developing and extending the race as something which continues to 'live on' in Yorkshire year after year, they have successfully used this as an opportunity for brand and product development, securing private sector sponsors, developing a range of routes and continuing to use it as an opportunity to show the stunning landscapes as a backdrop to road cycling.

In 2019, the legacy extended further with a partnership formed between Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit Flanders to link these two cycling destinations, albeit with very different terrain and build on the synergies between them. Read more here.

7. Visit Flanders

Continuing with the same theme, Visit Flanders and regional destinations in such as Toerisme Oost-Vlaanderen have been working hard to develop the cycling theme through both brand work and product development extensively.

In this talk, you'll hear Elke Dens from Toerisme Vlaanderen talk about what cycling means to Flanders as a destination and how it fits in with their wider strategy around regenerative tourism.

Work on this theme goes further than just brand campaigns but a wider development of the overall offering and iconic link between the sport and the destination. With the development of sites such as Cycling Flanders, we see the theme of cycling going the step further and bringing on-board commercial partners, such as Strava, which helps Flanders tap into that highly engaged sporting community, all ran on Strava and integrated into different challenge pages on the Cycling Flanders website. This is a great example of going much further in engaging with a sporting community, building relationships around competitive sport and highlighting the value of tapping into niche segments in a very specific way.


8. Tourism Australia

Okay, this one isn't related to sports personalities, but it is an interesting one nonetheless in working with globally renowned figures to raise the profile of your destination. Tourism Australia contracted Chris Hemsworth to front a number of videos to create a hero profile for the destination in both a powerful and evocative hero style and also a more humorous take on Crocodile Dundee.

This first video stands out as a perfect example of a best practice when it comes to destination hero videos, showcasing all key touchpoints of the brand's pillars and offering an inspirational 'spark' towards deeper brad discovery. This is supported by richer content in but hub and immersive 360° content taking each of the scenes further.

In this sequel in 2018, we see Chris Hemsworth working with Tourism Australia to pitch the destination with the claim that Dundee is not in Hollywood but in the Outback. This was aired during the Super Bowl, one of the most significant airtime slots in media.

9. Oslo X Games

One of our earliest Case Studies shot back in 2015 was with Visit Oslo, looking at how they managed to exploit the opportunity of the X Games coming to Oslo. This is one of the earliest examples of destinations recognising the value of digital and social media engagement over traditional media.

The Winter X Games has allowed Oslo to target a whole new audience in new markets, such as Brazil, where their traditional set of followers naturally convert to discovering a city like Oslo in a whole new light, around snowboarding and other sports.

The success of this depends on more than just working with sports personalities however. Key to the success of this has been leveraging the full potential of athlete social media channels and perhaps even more importantly, being as a destination in securing such events in the first place.

10. Visit Scotland

Visit Scotland have long fostered a relationship with the famous mountain biker, Danny MacAskill. Clocking up millions of views on YouTube for each of his eye watering videos, Danny is a true online influencer amongst a niche community passionate about extreme sports.

The visual and adrenaline impact of his rides and the way in which they're shot makes for highly viral content, whilst the epic views of Scotland feature everywhere, making for a very powerful showcase and key tactic in reinforcing Scotland's brand awareness.

Complimenting an ongoing stream of incredible content, often secured in partnerships with YouTube and RedBull, Visit Scotland, like many others, have created a complimentary set of content giving Danny's take on Scotland's trails.

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