I’ve been fortunate enough to attend three Olympics: first in 2008 as a production assistant for NBC in Athens, then as a springboard diving competitor for Team USA in London in 2012, and most recently as an observer (and rabid fan) at the 2016 games in Rio.
As a participant, I discovered that while official sponsorships, athlete endorsements, heartwarming TV spots, and neon Nikes caught the nation’s attention as memorable Olympic marketing moments, some of the best marketing couldn’t be seen on TV. Scouting this year’s Games revealed a number of unique and scalable opportunities for marketers and brands that look beyond the big screen and the major players.
From the Copacabana to getting a daily coffee fix, innovative marketers are taking advantage of the local connections, stories, and encounters that make the Olympics like no other international competition. By tapping into the experience of the Olympics, they are finding new ways to use innovation as a powerful form of marketing, making the Games a unique brand-building opportunity.
Here are the five best marketing moments from Rio that you didn’t see on TV:
Discovering There's No Place Like Home—Or The Local Starbucks
Say what you will about the McDonald’s- and Starbucks-ification of the world. Familiar brands and branded spaces provide an oasis of comfort for frazzled travelers. Throughout the Games, the Starbucks located along Copacabana and Ipanema were a sea of red, white, and blue, with lines out the door every morning. Particularly at global events like the Olympics, where fans' priorities might be less about experiencing the local culture and more about getting into the Games, travelers welcome and appreciate spaces that feel like home.
Celebrating The Sport Of Fandom
The Games’ global appeal inspires a level of fan passion—and fashion—that few other events can match. At the venues and on the beaches, people tried to one-up each other with the craziest outfits, cheers, and fan swag. Brands can capitalize on this unique level of enthusiasm with activations that recognize and celebrate their fans’ creativity and support, as Panasonic did this year with its #superfans campaign.
Thinking Like A Local
For brands that aren’t ready to invest in an official Olympic sponsorship, advertising restrictions can make it seem difficult to get into the spirit of the Games. One smart activation that stood out this year was Under Armour's fitness stations. In a city where the mantra seems to be “no shoes, no shirt, no problem,” fitness is an authentic part of the culture and part of the landscape. Under Armour supported—and branded—this unique local culture by building fitness stations throughout the city, creating a relevant, highly visible, on brand out-of-home presence without even mentioning the word “Olympics.”
Understanding Athletes Are People, Too
A lot of the most successful partnerships this year—like Virgin Media and Bolt—didn’t just drop Olympians into a one-size-fits-all spot. They zoomed in on the athletes as people beyond the games, bringing to life elements of their own personal stories, which helped form deeper connections for the brands and brought new dimension to the marketing in channels beyond TV. Getting to know athletes as people is also a big consideration when selecting which athletes to partner and align a brand with. With such a bright spotlight during such a brief time period, it’s easy to get swept up in a star athlete. However, it’s extra important to ensure their personality, values, and behaviors outside the arena align—a lesson some brands learned the hard way from a certain bleach blond “exaggerator.”
Leaning Into The Paralympics
As inspiring as the Olympics are, some of the most compelling moments of the Games happen several weeks after most media and brands have packed up and gone home. The Paralympics features passionate athletes with powerful stories of perseverance and triumph. This year, budgets were cut, and then cut again, which can make it seem risky for brands to invest. But this can be seen as an opportunity as much as a risk. The Paralympics is full of untapped potential, with countless inspiring stories waiting to be told.
The international good will, athletic spirit, and local pride of the Games provide countless untapped brand-building opportunities that enhance the experience. And it’s never too soon to start thinking about the next Olympics.
On to Pyeongchang! - Read more at: http://scl.io/Co2SdrzH#gs.iiRgQ_s
Cassidy Krug is an associate strategist at Redscout.