2020 in review: the best marketing campaigns

2020 has been a turbulent year for us all. Most brands will no doubt have abandoned their marketing strategies for the year, and put heads together through the medium of Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, in an effort to combat the difficult economic climate brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

But if this year has taught us anything, it’s how to adapt – and quickly. In what is a new age of advertorial marketing, brands must be at the top of their game when it comes to creativity, and some of the world’s biggest certainly haven’t allowed COVID-19 to get in the way of that. In fact, some have used it to their advantage.

Below, we look at some of the best campaigns that have appeared this year.

Burger King

With the food industry jolting to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic, even the largest chains in the business have taken a substantial hit to profits. It was therefore fascinating – and maybe even a little strange – to see Burger King take an overtly sincere approach, in a call to arms for customers to order from McDonald’s and other fast-food competitors.

It was only last year that Burger King’s marketing team deployed an international take-down of McDonald’s. To highlight the superiority of their signature ‘Whopper’ burger, Burger King revealed that posters around the world promoting their burger secretly had its arch-nemesis, the Big Mac, sat behind it, unseen due to its inferior size.

Yet desperate times have called for a more earnest approach, and Burger King has gone to great lengths to end their beef with McDonald’s. With a particular onus on supporting the staff working for its competitors, its message concluded that “getting a Whopper is always best, ordering a Big Mac is also not such a bad thing,” exhibiting a more tender side to the fast-food industry. In a time where togetherness has taken centre stage, Burger King seized the opportunity to show its compassionate side.


The Scottish brewery and pub chain has accrued a reputation for its impressive mastery of the zeitgeist, and 2020 saw perhaps its most savvy and widely-acclaimed campaign to date.

Dominic Cummings’ conspicuous lockdown trip to County Durham quickly splashed onto UK headlines, with the undermining of the government’s ‘stay at home’ message causing widespread outrage. Never to miss a trick, within a week of the first headline on Cummings, BrewDog released a brand new, limited edition beer: Barnard Castle Eye Test.

Cleverly marketed around Cummings’ ‘eye test’ justification, and with a strapline of ‘Short sighted beer for tall stories’, it was the speed with which BrewDog acted that drew plaudits among pun and beer lovers alike. Jokes aside, however, the brewery put all profits made from sales towards its production of hand sanitiser, which it has donated to the NHS and healthcare charities throughout the pandemic. A profile-raising campaign, yes, but ultimately BrewDog’s tongue-in-cheek campaign was a force for good.


Long-time marketing heavyweight, Nike, has been at the forefront of marketing innovation for decades, so it was no surprise to see them throw their substantial weight behind their ‘play inside, play for the world’ campaign.

Two of Nike’s most valuable marketing ploys lie in making customers feel a part of something bigger, and in making them feel capable. Many of its products are geared towards enhancing the ability of consumers in their sporting endeavours, and with whole lines of sports and casual wear linked to sporting stars like Michael Jordan and Cristiano Ronaldo, Nike offers a feel of identity, and community, on a global scale. Its inspirational stay-at-home campaign message, then, slotted in perfectly with the brand:

“If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance.”

As a part of the campaign, Nike offered a multitude of links to resources that would support people across the world who were forced to stay at home: a running app, podcasts and a YouTube channel. Whatever your primary digital resource for entertainment, Nike ensured that they were at the top of the list, helping us all to approach the pandemic “with the indomitable spirit of an athlete.”


The vulnerabilities of the general public to investment scams were laid bare by Santander earlier this year when it shared its ‘Too good to be true’ campaign. New research commissioned by Santander revealed that one quarter of Brits have been affected, or know someone who has been affected, by an investment scam.

But while the results of Santander’s research were shocking, it wasn’t the statistics that got people talking, but instead the charming campaign to tackle them. Prior to National Poetry Day, the financial services company teamed up with British poets, Pam Ayres and Suli Breaks, to create Santander’s Scam Sonnets. A short video of the two poets sees them reciting tongue-in-cheek verses that incorporate words and phrases from real scam emails, online adverts and telephone calls received by Santander customers.

An inventive and informative way to combat the rise of scam incidents in the UK, the campaign was widely praised for being, actually, very helpful, turning the table on fraudsters and showcasing some of Britain’s fine literary talents in the process.

Those are our picks of the best marketing campaigns of 2020 – head over to our Twitter to join in the conversation.

At Freshwater, our teams of researchers, strategists and planners have the knowledge and experience to develop an effective marketing campaign strategy for you. Get in touch to learn how we can support you in creating your next campaign.