Go for the Marketing Gold

Mar 17, 2020

History of The Olympic Brand

When thinking of sports marketing, the Olympic Games are a prime example of what to look toward. The international sporting event is a household name that brings in billions of viewers. In 2016, the Olympic Games captured half of the world’s population in viewing the event!

In order for something like the Olympic Games to become as big as they are, an extensive marketing strategy must be in place that involves constant flexibility and innovation. The first marketing effort started at the very first 1896 Olympic events in Athens where stamps were sold to help build the venue for the event. The first media rights to The Olympic Games were sold in 1912 at the Stockholm Games, then corporate advertising came into the scene during 1920 in Antwerp. Leading into the age of television, the first televised games were broadcasted from Berlin in 1936 with just one camera providing 138 hours of coverage. At the most recent Olympics in 2018, virtual reality was introduced.

The Olympic Brand Image

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) conducted research and found that 9/10 people could identify the signature Olympic Rings. Because the movement is so recognizable, the committee is very particular about their branding and has put policies in place to prevent over-commercialization from non-sponsor companies. The Olympic Games’ marketing scene is so big that they actually need to restrict companies from advertising about them! Rule 40, a bylaw in the Olympic Charter, works to protect their brand and prevent non-sponsor companies from using Olympic-related terms. In order for non-sponsor companies to promote their brand, they can ask for "Olympic waivers" which give them opportunities to market without using their symbols or references, simply allusions. Additionally, the infamous ‘Rule 40’ prevented athletes from promoting brand sponsors who are not official Olympic sponsors during the games. Athletes and their sponsors have developed strategies to overcome this hurdle that protects the Olympic branding. Rule 40 is seemingly becoming a bit more relaxed with the upcoming Olympic Games as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is giving athletes more marketing opportunities by allowing them to promote their individual sponsors during the games.

How The Olympic Marketing Has Changed Over Time

Ever since the first Olympic Games in 1896, there has always been some type of advertising, whether through sponsorship or commercial support. Those efforts have of course expanded throughout the years and now, there is one notable medium taking over: social media. The beginning of this movement began in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics. The games are now more accessible than ever through live coverage on social media and athletes actively sharing their experiences. As for the younger generation who may not watch The Olympics as intently, there’s another growing marketing effort: influencers. At the 2016 Olympics, Adidas opened the doors to influencer marketing by inviting top influencers from around the world to live in a house in Rio called the “Creators’ House” and attend the Olympics. Influencers documented their daily activities sponsored by Adidas on social media to their vast following. One of the major components that made Adidas’ campaign successful was allowing influencers to share authentic content that their fans and followers did not view as a commercial.

Implementing The Olympics’ Strategies to DECA and to Life

With all of this in mind, if you’re planning to compete in a DECA sports marketing event or get into the sports marketing field, there is much to learn from how the Olympics developed itself into an iconic brand known to billions around the world. Here are some notable marketing lessons that you can learn from the Olympics:

1. Innovate

Brands need to constantly innovate how they advertise. The Olympics’ marketers were early adopters of technology that has led to expanded audience reach and market potential. Companies have also explored new ways of expanding their reach through the use of social media influencers. With new technology being developed daily, explore the new trends and incorporate them into your presentation. Remember that your judge will hear similar ideas proposed by your competitors, so be sure to share effective strategies that will make you memorable.

2. Protect Your Brand

Well established brands, like the Olympics, have policies that help protect their brand image and intellectual property. If your role-play involves co-branding with a national brand, be mindful of any strategy pitch that could be at odds with branding policies.

3. Perspective

View the competition scenario from various lenses and be creative with your marketing. Consider how non-sponsor brands face strict policies, yet are still able to successfully create ads that capture the spirit of the Olympic Games. Whatever your role-play may be, try to look at the potential solutions from different angles to ensure you propose a plan that is detailed and intentional.

4. Adapt

While it’s not possible to cater an advertisement to every single person, there are incalculable potential audiences that you can target your message to. The Olympics and their sponsors have a huge presence on traditional media such as television, but have also been adapting their methods to reach audiences of varying demographics. Social media, influencer marketing and virtual reality are just a few of the ways that sponsors have been proving there are multiple avenues to reach people. During the brainstorming process of your role-play or prepared presentation, consider non-traditional ways to cater to the ever-changing environment around you.

With the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games beginning next summer, pay attention to the marketing efforts made by companies that are both sponsors and non-sponsors of the Olympics. You can view what methods are most effective and ultimately implement the various strategies in your competitions. During this time, also harness the competitive heart and spirit of the Olympics and use it as motivation to be the champion of your association!

This article was originally published in the March/April 2020 "Sports and Entertainment Marketing" issue of the DECA Direct magazine.


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