Marketing and advertising at the Olympics is always a dynamic topic of discussion. The massive two-week long event is undeniably a great place for companies to reach out to the global and diverse audience of Olympic spectators. Though even if your company is not producing high volume, big budget, national advertisements and marketing campaigns during the Olympic games there are still many things to take away from the national advertising and marketing campaigns that do circulate during the Olympic games.
That being said, this year at Rio, it’s all about influencer marketing. Due to Rule 40, companies that are not official Olympic sponsors have been forced to get creative with their marketing and ad campaigns. Rule 40 is a bye-law in the Olympic charter that prohibits any company, that is not an official Olympic sponsor, from using a competing Olympic athlete in an ad campaign during the games. An article in Forbes explains that Rule 40 is even so specific as to regulate social media campaigns, and the usage of hashtags containing specific words related to the Olympic games.
At Rio, many non-sponsor companies have made use of brand ambassadors and bloggers to promote their brand. These influencers create content to be posted on their personal social media platforms as well as the company’s. Influencer marketing is a great way for brands to promote themselves indirectly. Bloggers and social media superstars come with a ready made audience who are from a variety of niche markets. What’s more, the people who follow these bloggers are often very trusting and loyal to them.
Michael Parrish Dudell, a business consultant and expert on branding, marketing, and the Millennial generation, says that the emerging Millennial consumer is a radically different kind of consumer, one who is both “savvy and skeptical.” This consumer demographic demands hyper-connection, genuine authenticity, and market products that deeply resonate with them.”
Partnering with an already established social media influencer is a sure fire way to connect and resonate with the savvy consumer.
Influencer media also offers the word-of-mouth feeling that direct-to-consumer marketing and advertising cannot—it just feels more authentic. Further, Good old-fashioned word-of-mouth is still proven to be one of the most effective ways to genuinely reach people and spark interested.
Another thing we can take way from Rio 2016, is that sometimes (tastefully) incorporating upsets or concerns into a marketing campaign actually works. With the presence of the Zika virus in Rio de Janeiro, there were valid health concerns over the possibility of Olympic athletes and spectators contracting the virus. Rather than ignore these concerns or painting them out to be less of a concern than they really are, some companies responded to them directly.
The Brazilian arm of Anhueser Busch, Ambev, created a campaign to spread awareness about the virus which detailed methods of prevention such as eliminating areas of standing water. SC Johnson’s Off! insect repellent capitalized on the concern by becoming a sponsor of the Rio Olympics. This is unprecedented as Off! is the first ever insect repellent brand to partner with the Olympics. Their ads that aired during Olympic programming promoted the use of insect repellent to detract mosquitoes that could potentially carry the Zika Virus. Off! also donated thousands of bottle for insect repellent to the events for exhibitors and spectators alike.
Lastly, telling a story is the tried and true way to engage any audience. Michael Parrish Dudell states that “as markets become more saturated and consumers are faced with an increasing number of choices, effective storytelling has fast become one of the most potent tools for building loyal tribes of dedicated brand champions.”
Storytelling can be seen not only in the advertisements that circulated during the Olympics, but also at the events themselves. Prior to the start of an event, the newscaster will usually reveal a little bit of the athlete’s personal story, sometimes there are even previously recorded interview segments with the athlete and their family in their hometown. This allows the viewer who has little technical knowledge or interest in the sport itself to become engaged on a personal level by wanting to see how the story plays out.
J.B. Bernstein, sports marketing expert, author of Million Dollar Arm, and inspiration for the Disney movie of the same name, knows a thing or two about telling a story to market to a group who is not the product’s typical audience. He explains that when crafting the concept of his TV show and baseball talent contest in India, he didn’t want to refer to it as a baseball contest because he knew that very few people in India played baseball or had any interest in it. Instead, he thought Indian cricket enthusiasts would be able to relate to the concept of having a strong arm and throwing a ball at high speeds, and states that everyone is interested in winning money, hence the title Million Dollar Arm. By telling a story that his audience could relate to, J.B. Bernstein was able to attract 30,000 contestants to try their hand at high-speed pitching in a country where many people have never even heard of baseball.
However, Parrish Dudell states that the challenge, “in an age of escalating noise, competing platforms, and shortened attention spans, is how organizations can create and share stories in a way that is deeply relevant, sincerely authentic, and genuinely lasting?”
One of the most moving and memorable ads by far during Rio 2016 came from Olympic sponsor company P&G. The “Thank You Mom” campaign, with the tag line, “It takes someone strong to make someone strong”, celebrates mothers’ support and reassurance to their children during difficult life events and depicts how that support has helped their children stay strong throughout challenges in their adult lives as well.
While the company’s actual products are only featured in the last five seconds of the commercial, the ad precisely follows Parrish Dudell’s criteria. The ad effectively tells a story that is relevant to the consumer of their products (mostly mom’s), as well as to the event during which the ad airs (the Olympics), it also authentically shows moments in the lives of current Olympic athletes when their mother’s strength helped them to preserver, and has lasting appeal in the timelessness of its message.
Take note of the ad campaigns that circulate during the Olympics. They are produced by some of the best marketing teams around the globe and can lend insight into what works and why. Michael Parrish Dudell affirms that “companies of every size can increase their impact and amplify their influence by re-imagining how and why they tell stories.” Just from this small cross section of 2016 Olympic marketing and advertising campaigns it is clear that the campaigns that are most successful and effective are the ones that are hyper connected, genuinely transparent, and deeply authentic.