Qualifying for Sochi Through Social Media and Content Marketing: How Non-Sponsors Leverage Winter Games Content for Brand Lift
The Olympics not only represent an opportunity for athletes to make their mark on a global stage, but for brands to also leave their lasting mark in front of a worldwide audience. Just as the Games promote friendly competition among athletes, the scale of the event also invites friendly competition among brands.
It's estimated that brands shell out $100 million for Olympic sponsorships. That $100 million goes a long way, from television commercials during key events to sponsorship signs and facilities all over the Olympic park. The brands that pay to be a part of the Games are guaranteed a significant presence for two weeks. It's safe to say that the brands that can afford the hefty price tag of the Olympics find it well worth their marketing dollars, as companies like McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Visa are all long-time official sponsors.
Brands that can't afford the Olympic Committee's asking price, or that can't justify the value add of $100 million of their marketing budget for just two weeks, can still embed themselves into the overall experience of the Games. In fact, many Olympics fans presume that certain brands have certifiable affiliations with the games based on their brand visibility and the nature of their products. Companies like Pepsi and Nike have no real Olympics connection other than the brand association that the general public assumes.
While there are legal issues (e.g., copyright infringement) that non-sponsors need to mind, many global companies capitalize on public perceptions of their brand's presence at the event. Brands are savvy enough to understand the inherent value of inserting themselves into the fabric of the Games. Like in previous Olympics, the Sochi games have instigated widespread Olympics-based content marketing campaigns across brands and channels.
For example, Subway, although never having been an official Olympics affiliate, sponsors past Olympic champions and regularly features them on their commercials. When viewers at home see Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin and Apolo Ohno in one ad, they play into Subway's strategy by making an immediate connection to the Olympic Games. To support its television effort, Subway engages in Olympics discussion via social media by @mentioning their spokesmen and offering recaps, all while refraining to refer directly to #WinterOlympics and #Sochi2014. Subway has found a way to manifest a true Olympic connection without breaking its ad budget, and its social media content continues to deepen its association.
With the Sochi Games dominating the headlines the last couple of weeks, the brand behind the most interesting man in the world seized an opportunity to increase its brand engagement. Dos Equis’ latest TV spot, appropriately titled "Bobsled," included all the elements of a traditional Olympics campaign, including scenes of bobsledders, downhill skiers and even Zamboni drivers, without ever directly referring to the Olympics, Sochi or even specific participating countries. Dos Equis is actively supporting its latest campaign across all facets of social media while still managing to imply its Olympics intent without explicitly stating direct references.
Toni Box is the director of social media for PM Digital, a full-service digital marketing agency.
Related story: ‘The Tonight Show’ and Contribution Marketing