It’s hard to pin down a definition of cultural relevance. Any standard dictionary definition has certainly been ripped up by the events of 2020, with health inequalities highlighted by the pandemic, the reenergised Black Lives Matter movement and the impending climate crisis all affecting culture on a mass scale.
Like never before brands need to take a position on the issues that matter to consumers and be seen to be making a difference, or risk paling into insignificance.
In the world of sports, in particular, the brands getting it right are the ones backing up their words with action, committed to instigating collaboration and happy to disrupt the norm, according to a new ranking from sports creative agency Ear to the Ground.
Adidas tops the agency’s inaugural top 40 list of the most culturally relevant brands in sport, followed by Jordan, the NBA, the Premier League and Nike. The top 10 is rounded off by Barcelona FC, LA Lakers, Liverpool FC, EA Sports and Chicago Bulls.
To define the meaning of cultural relevance, the agency surveyed its 11,000-strong Fan Intelligence Network and conducted interviews with selected members to gain qualitative insight.
Six characteristics were defined, with driving positive change (55%) emerging as the most important, followed by disrupting the norm (37%), celebrating sports heritage (33%), standing for something (29%), instigating cultural collaboration (23%) and forming authentic partnerships (23%).