grafika otwierająca z krzysztofem gońką

We are battle-hardened!

How was the passing year for Decathlon? Which communication channels have been the most important and what creative activities has the brand taken during the pandemic? - answers Krzysztof Gońka, senior marketing manager at Decathlon.
Published 04/12/2020

The most interesting marketing campaigns of 2020.

I will not be original when I say that 2020 was a demanding year for Decathlon. Due to the circumstances and lockdown, the marketing plan changed a dozen or so times, and we made binding decisions regarding key activities minute by minute. All the more special thanks to the whole team and our partners. Agile has definitely stepped to a higher level.

What action do we enjoy most? We were lucky that a large brand campaign increasing Decathlon’s positioning (with the “It works in sport” communication) took place in February, right before the pandemic broke out in Europe. With it, we were able to take root in the minds of Poles, a fact confirmed by tracking studies (an extraordinary NPS result, brand and offer awareness, brand associations) regularly prepared for Decathlon. The 360 campaign that strengthened the idea was further developed in the form of digital activation – “Pay with sport in Decathlon”. Sport is so important to us that we decided to make it … a currency. Literally. The campaign was supported by influencers who accepted payments for products in push-ups, squats and pull-ups on a specially prepared cash register in one of the physical stores. The action was nominated in various contests (including Innovation, Kreatury) – it is good feedback from the environment.

Actions that have been implemented as a response to the pandemic and confinement at home deserve a separate paragraph. We noticed many trends that the sports brand could not ignore. Online training at home with influencers using a dedicated platform and in social media, various challenges for athletes and other brands, as well as campaigns focused on the benefits of sports, are just some of the communication activities. PR is back in favour, and with it the broadly understood CSR. For us, the most important thing was cooperation with the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity during the first lockdown. We are glad that our snorkelling mask helped healthcare professionals fighting the pandemic. Equally important were business activities: e-commerce has grown, and with it, the importance of new forms of ordering and delivering products (order at and pick it up in 1 hour in a brick-and-mortar store, collection of products ordered online from car in an offline store, telephone orders, chatbot). Decathlon also appeared on Allegro. The pandemic accelerated everything.

Key communication channels? How will this change in 2021?

Due to the fact that we are a retail, we will not run away from the mass media. Traffic in stores must be high. We use the synergy of TV/radio + digital abundant in various channels; and it is hard for me to imagine that something will change in this matter.

With each passing day, however, we are strongly digitizing. Apart from important social media (Facebook, Instagram) and Google products, advertising which is purchased programmatically and videos on various websites (VOD, social, YouTube) are becoming more and more important. We choose channels based on media effectiveness and the expected UX.

And again, the pandemic has shown that well-run own brand channels can turn out to have their weight in gold. We discovered TikTok, invested in SEO on Decablog, promoted online sports events on the Decathlon GO platform, focus on an application for loyal customers, each time keeping in mind the needs of new consumers and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

Internet radio, podcasts and music streaming are growing in strength. Stimulating as many senses as possible will also become valuable.

The biggest challenges that the brand faces.

We are probably not aware of them yet. 2020 is and will be one of the most surprising and perhaps the most dynamic years in the 21st century. Meeting the needs of customers has long been a goal in itself for brands. The one who exceeds the needs wins. And will provide the customer journey most suited to the individuals in all touchpoints. There’s a million dollars for whoever most accurately predicts how shopping behaviour will change in 2021.

Therefore, we try to pay more and more attention to everything that is connected with sport. The goods that are the centre of the consumer’s interest alone are no longer enough. Building a system of products that overlap with each other along the journey and respond to more or less conscious needs can make a difference in a given category. There is also huge potential in the service subscription model.

If you want to be a lovebrand, you must delegate power and decision-making to the client. Wait… no, the client will take it themselves.

The most important trends for you.

There are many. However, it is impossible to focus on all. In order to be effective, we must act quickly and creatively. In the multitude of information today, only such message has a chance to break through.

Certainly, no one can imagine that a brand would not think “digitally”. It is the digitization and focusing on omnichannel activities that are one of the key activities of Decathlon. In all this, however, we should not forget the simple thing that we are human – both our recipients and the people behind Decathlon. Therefore, digital media and the presence of an online brand must be interrelated with the human message and closeness.

After all, almost 80% of consumers would not notice the disappearance of a given brand from the market (according to Meaningful Brands); 7 out of 10 customers value influencer recommendation more than brand’s; and 94% of marketers believe that transparency and credibility are key in communication today. Therefore, it is impossible not to notice that brands try to be authentic. This is the end of the times when the broadcast of a wide-ranging product campaign with CTA “come and buy” will gather a crowd of customers at the stores. No. Consumers expect that a brand will walk the talk and take action.

Moreover, what has been emphasized by the pandemic is extremely important and we are trying to devote a place to it in communication. Health, taking care of yourself and your loved ones, the natural environment, as well as social responsibility – there are many trends. It is a pity that only the change in public mood and the undermined sense of security caused by the coronavirus emphasized them so much.

The condition of the industry. Chances and threats.

On the one hand, the future of many sports and related amenities (fitness, swimming, team sports) is in question. Sports events and the event industry are struggling to survive, while tourism, which is inextricably linked with sport, has never had such a hard time.

On the other hand, there is space for new business models (sports equipment rentals, second hands); events have moved to the Internet (running, bicycle races); the dynamically developing e-sport has accelerated twofold and now attracts the most powerful advertisers providing the highest level of entertainment; fitness sports can be practiced indoor, at home gyms. Time flies and reality changes. Whoever finds a place for themselves in this new world will be on top.


In the marketing industry, you can often hear the saying “no matter what they say, it’s important that they do.” Is it true, though? Are the influencers who are trying to sell another pair of pants, talking about the product in the context of the national Women’s Strike, the right business tool? Should a brand be present in all possible social media channels? Or maybe brands should chase their competitors and compete in the use of more and more innovative possibilities, with artificial intelligence and augmented reality at the fore?

Maybe it is so. The only question is: what for? More and more people believe that brands can combine doing good deeds for society with maximizing revenue. Awareness of millennials goes up – 9 out of 10 of them would change brand X to one that acts for a cause. We want brands to take a position on important social issues. We want it, but it can’t be enforced. First, let’s answer the question: what is my brand for? Would anyone even notice if it disappeared overnight?

And then let’s invest. First time, and then: human resources, solutions and tools, so that companies begin to implement their brand purpose.

Krzysztof Gońka

Senior marketing manager at Decathlon

Decathlon is an international network of supermarkets offering clothing, articles, accessories, supplements, tools and sports equipment for 86 sports.

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