I've been on assignment in London for a week now and while most of the world's attention is on the athletes, I've had my eye on another competition: what Olympic sponsors are doing to win the hearts and minds of consumers.
Stakes in this global event are huge. Sponsorships alone – reported to be in the range of $100 million dollars over four years – are just the price of entry; meaningless without large-scale, global marketing activations.
Last month, an analyst from the investment bank Nomura predicted in The Economist that the 2012 Olympics would boost the ad market, just in the US, by $800 million to $1 billion.
The rewards can be huge. Another study, published last year, found the annual income of 51 American firms that spent more than $15 million on sponsorships (mostly sports) grew 22%. And clearly, the Olympics, which transcends sport at times, have an even greater potential. So what does it take to do it right?
- Be selfless: Olympic campaigns should focus on your consumer; not your brand. The spirit of the Games is about bringing together people around the world to cheer on athletes as they face the ultimate test of performance. Sponsors that align their communications within that mindset build strong emotional bonds with consumers. Visa's campaign, inviting consumers to "join our global cheer” is a quintessential expression of this idea. While Visa focused on athletes during the Beijing games, it is directing its attention to consumers during the 2012 Olympics to take advantage of enhanced social media opportunities since 2008.
- Be consistent in messaging: Integrating one core message across all consumer touch points makes it more memorable. Companies such as Omega, with its positioning as the official timekeeper of the Olympics, is doing this well, touting its heritage as the appointed timekeeper of 25 Olympic Games and posting Olympic records related to time on its website, Facebook page, and via Twitter.
- Stand for something real and own it. This is something in which my client, Procter & Gamble, has excelled. Nothing could be more real than the connection between athletes and moms. This simple theme runs through P&G advertising, online content and its on-the-ground activation of the P&G Family Home, which serves the moms and families of the 10,000 Olympic athletes in London. With more than 60 million views worldwide of P&G Olympic videos and the same storyline running through both paid and earned media it's clear that P&G owns the idea that every athlete's Olympic journey begins with their moms.
- Make it easy for consumers to engage and share: This may seem obvious, but it's the only way to break through the clutter of the seemingly endless Olympics social media programs. Panasonic gives consumers a simple way to support their teams by superimposing their national flag on their picture and sharing it on Facebook. Those images will be shared on Panasonic's own media channels and at events.
When it comes to brand sponsorship, the gold will go to those companies that understand the Olympics are about much more than sport. The best campaigns make an authentic connection between the brand, the consumer, and the passion surrounding the Games. What campaigns do you think should win the gold?