By Demi Staluppi

As marketers will tell you, millennials are a tough group to reach these days – with very short attention spans and phones glued to their hands, they can be extremely difficult to connect with. For that reason, brands are willing to jump on the most current trends to get their attention. One tactic we’re seeing a lot of these days focuses on the sticker-like smiley faces taking over Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. Welcome to the world of emoji!

To call emoji a trend isn’t doing it justice: these digital images are taking the world by storm and sport marketers are strategically utilizing to them to reach younger audiences in their own language. For example:

Steph Curry has his own app called Stephmoji, which is full of emoji of him, and not just on the court: the app includes emoji of Curry cooking, and playing with his daughter Riley.

Like Steph Curry, Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglas created her own messaging app called Gabbymoji. In her app, you will find emoji of Douglas doing flips, and motivational quotes.

Roger Federer loves his emoji. He once used 43 emoji in a single tweet to describe his day off from Wimbledon. He also created a signature line of Nike performance t-shirts featuring emoji of his life.

On the property side, MiLB’s Michigan Whitecaps wore emoji-themed jerseys for Social Media Night at Fifth Third Ballpark.

The NBA created custom emoji for all 24 players in this year’s NBA All-Star Game in Toronto (and TNT’s broadcasting team too!). Tweeting a player’s first and last name (with a hashtag) triggered that player’s emoji, and the emoji were used to vote for the game’s MVP.

Brands are getting in on the action too. To combat the decline of carbonated beverage consumption in young people, Pepsi created over 200 emoji to be used in commercial advertisements as well as on 20-ounce bottles of their products. You may see these ads in this year’s Summer Olympics.

Emoji have taken flight in sports marketing, and in the digital world in general. You can track emoji performance in Facebook advertising, and even the Pope has his own set of emoji! What does this mean for the future? Will the English language soon vanish? I doubt it. Will there be an emoji dictionary? Most likely. Will all documents be written in emoji? Maybe. Will this trend fade? Time will tell.