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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Derrick

2022: Sport in Rehab

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

The last two years have been both testing and transformative for sport brands. On the one hand, we witnessed the incredible rise of women’s professional sport, a hugely successful Men’s Euro’s competition and most importantly, continued work on creating an inclusive and diverse industry, whilst on the other, we’ve seen sport tackle some of its lowest moments including the disastrous European Football League launch (and subsequent crash) and ongoing mental health and bullying challenges for our athletes.

However you remember sport in 2021, there is no arguing that 2022 is set to be a stellar year as we start to shape the post-pandemic landscape. Here are my top five predictions for what we can expect to see for sport:

  1. Purpose-led brands will launch: 2020 and 2021 felt like the time that sport brands realised they were brands. More and more sport brands went back to their core to truly understand who they were and what they stand for. In 2022 we should expect to see these purpose-led brands launch, grow and reshape how we build commercially strong, long-lasting brands in the new-era. Bye-bye short-term marketing gains, hello long-term brand wins.

  2. Esports will start distancing itself from traditional sport: Undeniably, esports will continue to be the biggest growth area for the sports industry and will remain the greatest opportunity for sport brands to grow and diversify their audiences. However, a lot of noise we continue to hear is that the greatest esporters feel hard done by having their livelihood swallowed up by the traditional sport giants. Esports has been around for decades and is loved by the misfits and underdogs as well as traditional sport-loving fans so brands, including those sponsoring esports, need to be careful not to disrespect this.

  3. Our quest for equality will move beyond statements: If 2021 was the year of huge statements (taking the knee, stadium silences, powerful narratives) then 2022 is the year of action. We are already seeing the statements lose their effect so brands can expect to see their focus shift to seismic changes made from the top down. Athletes and fans must continue to demand it through challenges at the commercial level - refusing to attend matches, support brands or buy products until the change they want to see is made.

    1. Bonus round, the return of community: We’ve all greatly missed sports ability to unite. I predict a resurgence in community sport whether that be play, coaching or spectatorship. Grab a hot brew and get down to your local sports fields/centre to support your local community and relish in good old grassroots sport. There’s really nothing like it.

  4. Euro 2023 will be women’s football’s greatest competition yet: You thought the World Cup was big. Wait until you see Euro 2023. With brilliant broadcast deals announced that will allow fans - both new and old - the world over to watch, we can expect to see records shattered. If you’re a brand that isn’t already involved, it’s not too late. Women’s sport fans are among the most open to trying new things so you should be launching experimental, interactive and immersive brand experiences that support the game and transform your brand rep at the same time.

  5. Climate change will return to focus: I don’t know about you but it felt like all the great noise surrounding sport and climate change waned a bit in 2021 as the focus went to equally important post-pandemic growth, mental health awareness and equality. Whilst it’s vital all three of these must continue into 2022, we need to refocus on applying sport to positively affect our global climate goals. As more sport brands sign up to the UN’s Sport for Climate Action framework as well as increased action from athletes themselves, we should expect (and invest accordingly) into sport’s environmental sustainability opportunities.

What are you more excited to see in the industry for 2022? Anything you disagree with or feel I have missed? I’d love to chat:

For those of you wondering. SportAZ is the recently launched content hub and community space where I, and other like (or unlike) minded brand professionals, can post think pieces, open up a discussion, build networks and support sport brands globally with their branding needs. SportAZ. It’s sweet as.

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