Jumping Through Hoops: Olympic Marketing

Since the first modern Olympics in 1896, companies have been advertising at the games, but exclusivity rights first implemented in the 1980s have made it all but impossible for any companies but the largest with the deepest pockets to become associated with the prestigious event. The amount of money spent by the sponsors is staggering – the most recent Winter Olympics in Sochi brought in over $1.1 Billion in sponsorship funds, spread across 46 Olympic Partners – so how can smaller businesses hope to take advantage of the marketing opportunities the Olympic Games present?

Navigating the Marketing Minefield

Advertising anything about the Olympics is difficult if you’re not an official sponsor. The International Olympic Committee forbids the use of “Olympic properties or any NOC [National Olympic Committee] related symbol or design protected under national legislation, trademark, or copyright law, or of any symbol, design, or terminology or expression creating a risk of confusion with these properties.” Included in the list of terms and expressions that must be avoided are phrases such as ‘Olympics’ and ‘Olympic Games,’ and even words like ‘2016’ and ‘Rio’ must be used with care when discussing anything related to the games, or you might find yourself on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist letter.

The tight restrictions on words, phrases, and the iconic interlocked rings logo means that any advertising that references the games directly is out. However, you may be able to find creative ways to reference the games without directly mentioning them. Additionally, if you have televisions in your restaurant, you could make an event of it. Let customers know you’ll be airing the games to draw in those who might otherwise stay home to watch. Creating menu specials or custom cocktails that correspond with the games can create a festive, more immersive experience for your customers and offer an additional boost to sales. You can even offer sales such as a percentage off or a buy-one-get-one deal based on how the American Olympians place.

Hashtag Hijacking

The difficulties in marketing in and around the Olympics are enough to push some brands to extreme lengths. In the past, brands like Nike have resorted to ambush marketing tactics. While not every business can find a way to slide into the Olympics like that, social media provides a way to insert yourself into the Olympic conversation in order to make your brand visible.

Hashtags are how many people communicate on social media, allowing others to easily find the conversation they want to engage in. Some of the hashtags expected to trend during the 2016 Olympics are #Rio2016, #RioOlympics2016, and #Olympics. While you still want to keep your posts on-topic for the Olympics, you can find creative ways to tie the events into your restaurant. One great example of this is when Tide jumped on a trending hashtag after a blackout at the Superbowl.

Tide Super Bowl tweet

A recent survey by RadiumOne shows that 59 percent of people watching the games will also be using a smartphone while they watch, and many of them will be following the hashtags about the games they’re watching. Using the appropriate hashtags with a timely social media post can get your restaurant in front of the eyes of thousands and, if you’re lucky, spike your engagement with customers, which could have an effect on sales.

Watch the Olympics

NBC will be broadcasting the 2016 Rio Olympics on NBC and Telemundo, as well as on cable on Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network, NBC Universo, USA Network, and specialty channels that focus on basketball, golf, and soccer. Most channels will be broadcasting live during the day and primetime, then replaying events from that day late at night. Coverage starts on Friday, August 5th and ends on Sunday, August 21st.

Courtney Barkley
Courtney Barkley

Courtney Barkley has lived in nearly as many southeastern states as most Americans have probably visited, settling in East Tennessee in early 2013. She and her husband Thomas were married during ShadoCon 2012 – an anime, gaming, and comics convention – in a ceremony that featured a reading about dinosaurs in love from a friend dressed as Doctor Who. She spends her free time chasing her brilliant and imaginative son Nathan, hanging out with friends, binge-watching shows, playing video games, and keeping up with the characters of the Marvel Universe. And, any chance she gets, she sneaks off to Florida to visit friends and the happiest place on earth – Disney World.

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