Who will win the gold for marketing?
Companies are competing almost as hard as the athletes during the 2012 London Olympic Games. What does it take to be the best in branding?
The Olympics represent a huge platform for marketers. Eleven companies sign on as Worldwide Olympic Partners at a cost of $100 million each. How do brands make sure they get a return on this investment?
Visa is one of those 11 worldwide sponsors. When Qn talked with Antonio Lucio, the company's CMO, back in March, he explained that London 2012 is one of the rare events "that give you the opportunity to actually address the needs of the local fans and at the same time elevate the brand to global stature."
Visa intends to interact with customers in person at the games, watching on television, or using social media. "We start with our 'Audience First' approach, which means understanding the consumer-decision journey within the context of the Olympics experience," he said. "And then approaching consumers where they are most likely to be interacting with the Olympics experience, and, through a relevant angle, with the Visa brand."
Read Qn's entire interview with Antonio Lucio on the opportunities and returns-focused decisions leading up to the release of the Go World campaign marking 25 years of Visa's Olympics sponsorship.
See examples of Visa's Go World campaign on YouTube. The commercials highlight both global themes and athletes on a country by country basis.
P&G, another worldwide sponsor, has taken a similar approach with its Raising an Olympian spots, which thank the mothers of the athletes. The company produced both global and country-specific commercials.
Companies that didn't take on sponsorship are also seeking opportunities to capitalize on interest in the Olympics. Adidas won the sportswear sponsorship, so Nike is one of several companies going with an "ambush" marketing approach, as reported by The New York Times. Legally forbidden from referring to the games or London, England, the Nike created a"Find your Greatness" campaign featuring unknown athletes in Little London, Jamaica; East London, South Africa; and London, Ohio.
With much of the estimated $14.4 billion required to put on the games coming from varying levels of sponsorship, the International Olympic Committee protects the brand carefully. This year significant attention has been paid to the efforts to police misuse. For example, the Times reported, a butcher in Weymouth, England, who celebrated London's winning bid for the games with five rings of sausage in his shop window was forced to take down the display by threats of legal action.
A multi-million-dollar campaign by Virgin Media was stopped before it was aired, but for different reasons. Featuring Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt dressing up as Virgin founder Richard Branson, including a pasted on version of Branson's signature beard, the promotion for the company's internet service was banned by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority, which said that it made specific claims about speed that could not be backed up, according to a story in the Guardian.
Apparently, like the athletes, marketers are competing ferociously. Some meet with triumph and others failure.