Visual Storytelling in
By Ali Hassan Arshad of APR Blogs
Why Visual Storytelling is Important?
Why do Sport Brands use Visual Storytelling?
Examples of Visual Storytelling
Example 1:Cultural Significance
Example 2: Motivational Branding
Example 3: Unity and Support of the Fans
1. “Lionel Messi is out of this
The best player in the world
takes his rightful position on
top of it.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,”
A famous old phrase that was coined as early as 1911
still has as much significance in modern day society.
It has been proven that campaigns and advertising is
much more effective when the use of visual
connotations (images and videos) are applied.
High visual content has resulted in greater engagement
and encouragement for consumers to become
emotionally and physically involved.
The response of visuals is quicker, easier and depending
on the choice of image, it results in an heightened
emotional impact on us.
A picture can also describe the persons reputation and
personality as it is a true reflection of themselves.
The past two decades have seen a massive change in the
way sport brands now use different forms of campaign
The big brands, Nike and Adidas, have been implementing
visual storytelling and have shifted a majority of their
advertising towards content online.
A key factor is down to the change in behaviour their
target demographic has shown during this period.
The transition to more online orientated strategies have
meant that the emphasis has been placed on visual
storytelling to become a new method to promote the
This brings creativity and innovation to the masses,
whether this be through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Sport stars are the face of the brand, they are regarded
as idols and freaks of nature across their fans.
And brands are making it their priority to use this to their
2. Being greeted in Portland by Michael and
Many images are a true reflection of modern day society and sport
brands have begun to look at incorporating cultural references
within their campaigns.
As time moves forward, a brand must reflect it’s innovative culture
upon all demographics.
Whether this be same sex or interracial couples, brands must now
adhere to all audiences to maximise a growing consumer base.
On Valentines Day, Adidas posted an image of two women
standing in front of each other, a homage to the widely popular
image that usually features a man and a woman.
The image was posted on various online platforms such as
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with a caption, “The love you
take, is the love you make.”
Whilst the image and the caption were both brief and simple,
the message behind the image was powerful.
Promoting the concept that all members of society have a right
to celebrate Valentines Day with their loved ones.
But Adidas still managed to promote their brand within the
The logo is still prominent and they have also promoted their
new Pure Boost X Shoes in the process.
Celebrate Valentines Day, the Adidas way
Reaction to The Image
As expected, the image caused quiet the reaction and
debate amongst the public.
Many were supportive of the direction Adidas took to
promote Valentines Day.
Whilst others were outraged by how Adidas, one of the
biggest sport brands, could even get involved in such a
The image gained widespread coverage on social media,
news articles online and personal blogs.
However, Adidas themselves took the initiative to defend
their campaign, regularly replying to homophobic and
insulting comments left on their Instagram page.
Here are a few examples…
8. Kisses from Adidas
9. Support on
for great exposure
Adidas are always looking to find new ways to promote and raise awareness of social issues through the means
of a simple image.
The reaction, whether it be positive or negative, was a clever strategy that allowed for the discussion
surrounding such as social issue to be put forward.
The benefit for Adidas is that the more people talk about it, the more people will know about it and therefore
people will get to know Adidas’s stance on the issue.
For Adidas, the support shown towards the image, would reflect the culture the company is trying to promote, a
modern, innovative and accepting company, something that society should aspire to be.
Free promotion- The public is doing the work for them and raising awareness of the issue will equally raise the
awareness of the brand and the product.
Celebrities Join Adidas’s Mission for Equality
Sticking to the theme of equality, Adidas have previously been vocal on social issues, especially
surrounding diversity and discrimination.
When musician Pharrell Williams announced a long term collaboration in 2014, Skateboard P
decided to use his platform for a good cause and created a conceptual campaign on equality.
The image that kick started the campaign, showed an equal sign next to Pharrell’s name and the
Adidas logo next to it.
Whilst the other image saw, the 3 stripe Adidas logo with Pharrell face behind it.
The combination of the famous 3 stripe Adidas logo, the rainbow colours synonymous of LGBT and
Pharrell Williams, signified Adidas’s stance on equality and the support it has from major
Within the campaign, Adidas focused heavily on
having images that best represents unity and
They created the Adidas Colour Wheel Image, which
shows Pharrell sitting in the middle of coloured Adidas
It is also found in the Equality is Strength image.
Circles commonly represent unity, wholeness, and
The aim of the campaign was to create awareness for
equal rights and to bring people together through the
powers of colour, therefore being able to unite
Again very simple, yet highly effective of symbolism
and representation of what society should do when
there is a cultural issue.
The images were posted on various platforms,
including Pharrell's own Instagram page, he became
the face of the brand and the campaign.
The Wheel of Equality 12.
The aim of any sport brand is being able to inspire regular people
to become active and the best athletes they can possibly be.
To inspire their target demographic a sense of realism must be
created within the images.
This can be done through motivational and powerful imagery.
Or a quote that motivates people to exceed their potential.
An image can produce many messages, a person running or
winning a trophy could be the catalyst for others to get involved.
That is why sport brands are looking at getting more ordinary
people involved within their campaigns, rather than only focusing
on the sport stars.
Nike Tries to Find Your Greatness
In 2012, Nike focused on promoting their Find Your Greatness campaign.
It revolved around clips and images of everyday athletes, not superstars, trying to overcome a challenge that
makes them achieve greatness.
The images showed that you don’t need to be a championship athlete or a world record holder to achieve
An image of a small boy looking far down into a swimming pool connotes the challenge and risks that have to
be taken to become what you inspire to be.
Powerful imagery- The idea that ordinary or non-athletes can do whatever they can, such as the image of the
overweight boy running on the road.
Going against the norm- Adidas focused on professional athletes compared to Nikes more amateur athlete
Why Visual Storytelling a Motivator?
It brings out the best in an individual- Visuals are
inspiring, an emotionally powerful image can make
it more relatable to ordinary people.
Seeing a major sport brand trying to motivate you
through imagery allows for sense of belonging.
Filming locations, techniques and the scale of skills
on show frequently drive people to claim a
physical response in addition to an emotional one.
Location and action shots allow film makers the
chance to innovate and work with a greater variety
of styles and techniques. Consumers appreciate
these and are quick to complement.
A more visible theme was that to inspire people to
do more, to be active and try new things.
It doesn’t feel like an advertisement- Inspirational
images and subtle moments of branding makes it
look like the campaign is aiming to be more
personal rather than financial.
Can Visual Storytelling Be Successful?
It’s great having visual images, but can you measure such an
approach in terms of how successful it has been.
Firstly, the Find Your Greatness campaign lead to unanimous
praise from people online.
Just like the Adidas Valentines Day image, the online praise only
benefited Nike in cross platform promotion which was done by
the consumer rather than them.
Running parallel to this was a Twitter promotion #findgreatness
which ignited global conversation about how athletes around the
world find their own greatness.
Whilst online performance saw Nike achieve a 6% growth in its
number of Facebook fans and a 77% boost in engagement on its
Compare this to Adidas who only had a 2% and 59% growth on
their Facebook following.
Nike were able to make themselves look relatable and that is
something the consumer found very appealing and they showed
Example 3: Unity and Support of the Fans
Why Visual Storytelling Needs The Fans?
Recently, all sports have been criticised for becoming more of a
corporation and a business rather than a simple game.
With players of ridiculous amount of money and fans having to pay
high prices for games, the relationship between fans and their
beloved sports teams has diminished significantly.
This is something that sport brands have taken notice of and are
trying to rectify the mistakes that have been made.
After all, it’s the famous sport cliché, “Sports is nothing without the
That is why many marketing strategies have focused their attention
on incorporating regular fans within campaigns and using imagery to
gain a response by the general public.
With fans involved, it brings a more authentic and personal feel to
the image and therefore the campaign has a sense of realism towards
it as the fans be part of it.
This will hopefully lead the relationship between the fans and the
players becoming a stronger bond and fans becoming more engaged
within the campaign in the long term.
Nike’s Comes Together with LeBron James
25. We’re all in this together!
In 2014, LeBron James had returned to the Cleveland
For his return, Nike crated the “Together” campaign
which featured LeBron doing a team talk before the
As he is doing his inspirational team talk, Cavalier
fans begin to join in, running on to the court and into
Fan from outside the stadium begin to huddle
together as well, and just as LeBron finishes his team
talk, he and everyone else around him raise their
arms and salutes.
It was seen as a message of resilience and
togetherness for the city of Cleveland and the
welcoming of one of their iconic heroes.
The image shows LeBron in the centre as the others
stand around him, looking up towards him, as though
he is the leader and inspiration they were looking for.
It makes it more genuine and real- nothing flashy or
big budget effects, it’s authentic and its “for the
Why LeBron James?
A two time NBA Championship winner, four MVP’s, two NBA Finals MVP
Awards, two Olympic gold medals, Cavaliers all-time leading scorer and
born in Ohio, LeBron was the perfect choice for this campaign.
The spotlight remains on the main figure of the image, you never lose
track or an eye on who these people are listening to.
The incredible visual impact the image has is what makes it special.
The salute, widely recalled as the “Black Power Salute” is a symbolism of
closeness, strength and dedication to the cause.
The image shows the importance of the fan- Everything is in close
By having fans join the image, it creates a sense of unity between the
players and their loyal supporters, proving that they are as important as
the people who play on the court.
The fact that white people and women were involved in the salute refers
back to the cultural significance of images.
It shows that people of all races and gender can do their bit to drive the
team to victory and that they are all in this together.
Smaller Details Make The Biggest Difference
The choice of black and white was an attempt to give the commercial a more classic feel.
It was able to show a realness and grittiness of Cleveland, he’s talking to the entire city, so they wanted to
show how Cleveland is and what it feels to the people.
Also it again promotes the sense that everyone is together, this is done through everyone wearing either black
or white, the same colours means every is the same, no one is grater than the other, (unless you’re LeBron of
“This commercial is about a community going to work and uniting for one goal.” Lisa Beachy, Nike
How Nike Benefited From This
Nike were able to build customer loyalty with the image of heroism.
Nike used this emotional branding technique to great effect.
The most common story of the hero is that of a man of humble origins
setting out to win for the fans and, against all odds, emerging triumphant.
Nike brand strategy is to build a powerful brand- it inspires customers to
join the brand even customers to remain loyal to it.
This is because is they have the players, the icons of the game and those
icons care about YOU and are here to support you in achieving the best.
Aspirational values- The idea is that if you buy Nike trainers, then you
could be the next LeBron James, you could unite the fans and you could
be the hero.
It all relates back to the motivation campaign that Nike have previously
done, everyone is equal, and if we work together then they can be
Sport brands need visual storytelling, especially with the drastic change in modern
The advent of social media and the rise in sport stars being seen as celebrities, it
makes it all the more important that brands target the consumer with a key message
in mind for them.
Messages are key when advertising, people don’t want to read an advertisement,
they want a brief, bitesize version that is easy for them to consume and easy for
them to understand.
However, there is a balance that must be achieved, the image and text can be
simple, but the aim is that the message will have a certain long lasting reaction to it,
this will hopefully get people talking.
Just like Adidas’s brilliant Valentines Day photo, everything about it was simple, but
the message behind it was powerful and incredibly thought provoking.
That is why, visual storytelling isn’t seen as a choice, it has become a necessity that
all the major brands are taking notice off.
So now you either join the team or face getting beat everytime!