Featured image: How e.l.f. Built A Culturally Relevant Sports Sponsorship Strategy: 5 Tips for Success 

How e.l.f. Built A Culturally Relevant Sports Sponsorship Strategy: 5 Tips for Success 

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We gathered a star cast of panelists for a webinar to discuss the bold and creative vision  behind e.l.f. Beauty’s sports sponsorship strategy. 

The webinar featured: 

  • Patrick O’Keefe – VP, Integrated Marketing Communications @ e.l.f. Beauty
  • Nicole McCormack – SVP & GM, Brand Solutions @ TeamSnap, 
  • Brad Timmins Founder / Managing Director  @ eGEN 
  • Jo Bray – Senior Vice President Marketing, Entertainment Group @ Dotdash Meredith.

Here are the top five takeaways from the panel:


Lead with Purpose

e.l.f.’s approach to sports sponsorships and marketing campaigns is heavily rooted in its mission and values; being a bold disruptor with a kind heart and community connection. Their initiatives are not just about traditional advertising to gain visibility consumers might expect from a big beauty brand, but about making a meaningful impact and supporting causes like women in sports and youth participation.

“We want to shape culture and we want to connect communities,” Patrick said. “We listen, we learn, and we lean in.” e.l.f. has become a connector through showing up in “unexpected” places. “It’s important to us that we put the E in every eye, lip and face. And our community is everywhere from the Big Game to Roblox, across all social platforms and beyond”.

By leading with purpose, communities can feel connected and positivity and accessibility will champion for these young women.


Beyond Traditional Media

e.l.f. leverages a variety of platforms beyond traditional TV, including digital and immersive gaming spaces like Roblox, to reach and engage with their audience in relevant and unexpected ways. This multi-platform strategy allows e.l.f. to connect authentically with different demographics, especially younger audiences, in a way that is additive to spaces where fans  are already active and engaged.

Brad Timmins, and eGEN Sports (who made the e.l.f. Roblox experience possible), had a clear mission for their work with the brand: Amplify e.l.f.’s purpose and mission through immersive marketing experiences. 

“We always lean in with purpose when it comes to immersive marketing and looking at new and non-traditional ways of getting into different industries and connecting with different audiences,” Brad said. Although live events and online gaming spaces are different, the idea behind ‘e.l.f. UP’ on Roblox and ‘e.l.f. You’ on Twitch is to educate players to treat girls and women who like video games and are engaging in this digital world with the same respect as their male counterparts. 

And to no one’s surprise, ‘e.l.f. UP’  achieved status as the number one rated experience on Roblox in terms of its positivity rating.


Community Engagement

“We listen, we learn and then we lean in,” says Patrick O’Keefe about e.l.f.’s community engagement strategy. This approach includes responding to consumer demands (e.g., bringing back the Jelly Pop product line) and creating campaigns that resonate with and empower their audience

For e.l.f., partnering with PEOPLE for its “Pep Talk” series was a no-brainer. The series centers around legendary female athletes and helps young girls in sport find confidence in their craft. Known for telling stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and extraordinary people doing ordinary things, PEOPLE has become a force multiplier for e.l.f.’s culture-shaping strategy. 

Jo Bray, SVP of Marketing at Dotdash Meredith, explained, “It’s about connecting communities through positivity, inclusivity, accessibility, and being a champion for those young women.” PEOPLE recognized a shift happening in the world, where there was a distinct and growing interest in sports for girls. PEOPLE and e.l.f.’s “Pep Talk” series celebrates girls and women through pep talks by some of the world’s most impressive female athletes. 

The campaign has been incredibly successful, with U.S. women’s soccer player Sofia Huerta’s video on TikTok gaining over 1.1 million views. As a whole, this performed 167% above PEOPLE and Dotdash Meredith’s editorial benchmark. The sky’s the limit for this series, and Jo hinted that they have more cooking up!


Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

e.l.f.’s marketing strategy is characterized by collaboration, working closely with its partners like eGEN eSports, TeamSnap, and PEOPLE to create content and experiences that are authentic and far-reaching. 

Girls drop out of sport by the age of 14 at a rate 2 times that of boys due to a variety of factors including deprioritized and poorly funded programs, e.l.f. SKIN was the first to partner with TeamSnap to build an initiative that directly empowered girls to stay in the game through digital and onsite activations.  e.l.f. invited girls teams to submit their team cheers, illustrating their confidence and celebrating their dedication to bringing their best e.l.f.[self] to the sports they are most passionate about. 

e.l.f. went on to sponsored 15 youth sports leagues and distributed thousands of giveaways

These efforts drove results. e.l.f. saw a +158% lift in brand favorability, 325% lift in message recall and 130% lift in e.l.f. being associated with community support.  

TeamSnap’s Nicole McCormack explained, “e.l.f. didn’t just pay lip service to a cause, they helped secure uniforms, equipment and other necessary sports needs for these young female athletes and their teams.”


Every Day Is A New Day

How do you maintain momentum beyond one successful campaign or a singular viral moment? e.l.f. and their partnerships are  all about designing  experiences for long-term engagement and impact, versus short-term visibility and return. 

Patrick said, “We wake up every day like it’s a new day,” meaning there is a new opportunity each day to engage customers, inspire and support the next generation. Jo added, “Our audience will walk away in a minute if it doesn’t feel authentic.” While every day is a new day, e.l.f.’s initiatives remain constant, to support female empowerment in sports through their commitment to purpose-driven campaigns, and efforts to inspire and support the next generation of leaders and athletes.

Watch the full webinar below, and as Patrick O’Keefe says, always “disrupt with a kind heart.”

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