A Look at Sports Marketing: Hong Kong Sevens

As we are approaching the end of March, the iconic Hong Kong Sevens is around the corner! In the spirit of this annual festivity, we would like to invite you to explore with us how, among a plethora of global sports events, the HK Sevens stands out as a prime example of the immense potential of sports advertising/sports marketing. This annual rugby sevens tournament, celebrated for its carnival-like atmosphere and international fanbase, captures the key elements of effective sports marketing strategies.

In this article, we'll explore the evolution, current trends, best practices, and real-life examples of sports advertising and marketing, offering insights on how SMEs can harness these strategies to achieve remarkable brand visibility and engagement.

The Evolution of Sports Advertising

The journey of sports advertising is a tale of constant transformation. Initially, the concept was straightforward—brands would sponsor sports events for logo visibility. This is still very much part of the "game". However, as the media landscape evolved, so did the some of the strategies. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics marked a turning point in sports marketing, showcasing the power of global sponsorships and athlete endorsements. This era witnessed the rise of brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald's, which utilized the Games to foster a deep connection with a global audience.

What made that year so special? For one, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee introduced an exclusive sponsorship model, limiting the number of corporate sponsors in each product category. This exclusivity increased the value of sponsorships and allowed brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald's to stand out more prominently than they might have in a crowded sponsor field. This exclusivity model has since become a standard practice in major sports events.

The 1984 Olympics also occurred during a period of rapid advancement in global television and media technology. This enabled unprecedented worldwide coverage of the Games, offering sponsors a larger global audience than ever before. The event demonstrated the power of combining global media reach with strategic sponsorships to achieve widespread brand visibility.

And for the first time ever, brands also understood the value of athlete endorsements. With the rise of global superstars like Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton, brands saw the immense potential of aligning with Olympic athletes to enhance their image and connect with consumers on a more personal level. The success of these endorsements at the 1984 Olympics paved the way for more systematic and strategic use of athlete endorsements in sports marketing.

Current Trends in Sports Marketing

  • Digital Dominance: In today's digital-first world, platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have become battlegrounds in sports advertising for brand visibility. Real-time engagement during events like the Hong Kong 7s allows brands to tap into the audience's live emotions, creating a more profound impact.

  • Personalized Experiences: With advancements in data analytics, brands now offer personalized content, tailoring messages to individual preferences, which enhances fan engagement and loyalty.

  • Sustainability and Ethical Marketing: Modern consumers are increasingly drawn to brands that advocate for sustainability and social responsibility. The use of sports platforms to promote environmental and social initiatives has become a significant trend.

Sports Marketing Examples - Hong Kong Sevens

Cathay Pacific's long-standing relationship with the Hong Kong Sevens serves as a quintessential example of strategic sports advertising and sponsorship. As the title sponsor for many years, Cathay Pacific leveraged this premier rugby event to enhance its brand visibility and affinity on a global scale. The airline's association with the Hong Kong Sevens, a tournament celebrated worldwide for its vibrant atmosphere and high-level competition, allowed it to showcase its commitment to promoting sports and cultural unity. Through targeted marketing campaigns, special livery designs on its aircraft, and unique in-flight entertainment options related to the event, Cathay Pacific successfully utilized the tournament to connect with customers and reinforce its image as a leading global airline that supports and celebrates the spirit of sports.

Before we move on, let us share another one of our favourites from Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens ad campaigns:

Now let's look at other past or present sponsor/partnership campaigns of the HK Sevens:

1. Red Box Storage

2. Dettol

Source: Media Outreach

3. DHL Express

Source: Hong Kong China Rugby

4. Carlsberg

Source: Carlsberg Hong Kong

Sports Advertising for SMEs

For Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), achieving success in sports advertising doesn't require a blockbuster budget. By smartly adapting strategies from larger corporations and focusing on their community roots, SMEs can make a substantial impact in the sports marketing arena. Through creative partnerships, local event sponsorships, and engaging content creation—centred around popular events like the Hong Kong 7s—SMEs have a unique opportunity to boost brand visibility and connect with audiences on a meaningful level. Here are some examples of what smaller companies can do:

Local Heroes

  • Clinics and Workshops: Host sports clinics or workshops led by local athletes or teams. This not only boosts visibility but also directly involves the community, enhancing the brand's local presence and engagement.

  • Athlete Appearances at Business Events: Invite local athletes to grand openings, product launches, or special promotions, creating a buzz and drawing in crowds through the athletes' local fanbase.

Event Sponsorships and Partnerships

  • Community Fitness Challenges: Sponsor or organize fitness challenges or 'fun runs' in the community. These events can be themed around major sports events like the Hong Kong 7s to generate excitement and participation.

  • Youth Sports Leagues: Partner with youth sports leagues or tournaments, offering sponsorships or donations in kind. This not only supports local sports development but also builds a brand's image as a community supporter.

Content Marketing

  • Behind-the-Scenes Content: Share behind-the-scenes content from local sports teams or athletes preparing for big events. This kind of content humanizes the athletes and can generate a strong connection with the audience.

  • Live Coverage and Commentary: Offer live coverage or commentary on local sports events or games on social media platforms. Engaging with fans in real-time can significantly increase interaction and brand visibility.

  • Interactive Content: Create quizzes, polls, and contests related to sports events like the Hong Kong 7s. Interactive content can drive engagement and encourage users to share their participation, broadening your reach.


Sports marketing opens doors for brands to uniquely resonate with enthusiastic fans. Understanding the rich history, staying ahead with the latest trends, and making the most of world-renowned events like the Hong Kong Sevens, small and medium-sized businesses have a golden opportunity to elevate their brand visibility. The secret? Stay genuine, keep innovating, and truly get what makes sports fans tick.

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