The 2016 Summer Olympic Games have been at the center of some considerable controversy, largely related to safety concerns about host city Rio de Janeiro. As recently as May, a Washington Post guest columnist was asking, “Should the 2016 Summer Olympics still be held in Rio?” Given the negative PR, it’s understandable that major businesses might think twice about associating their names with the Rio Games — but they aren’t. The Olympics remain one of the biggest events in the world, drawing a global audience that remains attracted to the sport and the spectacle. No business with the budget and resources to link its name to the historic games wants to miss out. Here are some examples that demonstrate the enduring value of big-time events to create audience engagement:
Visa, which has been sponsoring the Summer Olympics for 30 years, is in the midst of “the most ambitious, best integrated, most multichannel global Olympic campaign we’ve done so far,” in the words of Lynne Biggar, Visa’s chief marketing and communications officer. As she discussed with Adweek, the Visa campaign is incredibly tech savvy. For example, 46 athletes dubbed “Team Visa” will each wear a new Visa-created ring that doubles as a wearable device to pay for goods and services. Team Visa will use the rings to manage their stays in Rio. Their use of the rings is intended to draw attention to durable yet fashionable jewelry that Visa has launched — certainly a far cry from the traditional forms of branding, such as TV advertising and signage. There also is plenty of advertising coming from Visa, including a new spot, “Carpool,” that depicts athletes from around the world sharing a car ride to Rio. But it’s the launch of the new rings that has created the buzz because consumers don’t associate Visa with wearable technology. Lesson: seize the event spotlight to roll out a new product.
GE has capitalized on the Olympics to showcase its reputation for innovation. Over several days in June, GE used Facebook Live to release 15-to-20-minute videos that share the technology behind the Olympics and the role GE plays in supporting the Games. During the so-called Drone Week, GE gave visitors a peek at the massive Itaipu Power Plant that helps Rio meet rising power demands; and provided an inside look at the Brazilian Canoeing Federation’s training facility to see how the federation uses GE diagnostic software and heart-rate monitoring technology to prepare for the Games, among many other cool highlights. By combining the use of drones and other forms of technology, GE showed how its brand is an integral part of the Games, even in nonobvious ways. Lesson: sometimes it’s better to show, don’t tell.
Meanwhile, GoPro is embracing storytelling — literally. The company has launched a nine-part series called “Two Roads” to share the story of nine athletes, one coach, and their journey to achievement at the Olympics. (Naturally, the stories are shot on GoPro cameras.) For example, in one episode, pole vaulter Allison Stokke tells the story of how she developed a passion for pole vaulting as a child and how that passion has propelled her to pursue her Olympics dreams. In another, Diver Kristian Ipsen shows how to execute the perfect dive and shares how he bounces back from failure. So far, based on the views generated alone, GoPro is capturing its own audience months before the Rio Games begin August 5.
For years, the Olympics have transcended scandal and even tragedy. In a sense, the Olympics are a resilient brand that cannot be denied despite the occasionally embarrassing stories that emerge about its host cities (and Rio is not the only one to face scrutiny and receive cringe-worthy media coverage). As GE, GoPro, and Visa demonstrate, the Olympics continue to create opportunities for businesses to seize the global stage — and the buzz will only increase as August 5 draws near.
Image source: YouTube
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