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Gold Medal Piggybacking at Home

Joyce A. Schwarz
Gold Medal Piggybacking at Home Joyce A. Schwarz

Part one illustrated how major marketers are aligning with the Olympics. But what if you’re not a major brand name? What if you own Brunei’s Ideal Café & Grill in Borneo and want to tie-in to the Games?


According to the Borneo Bulletin, you turn to your “exclusive soft drinks partner” -- Coca-Cola -- and launch your own local games promotion. Patrons who buy value meals can buy exclusive Coca Cola Athens 2004 Olympic Games mementos and other collector’s items at the cafe.


Food and drink brand campaigns power-up audiences with both online and offline promos as McDonald's encourages Olympics fans to “fuel up.” Even Oxford, Ohio's  Dreamfields Pasta is trying to share the spotlight with the majors. Its low-carb Greek penne pasta salad recipe whetted my appetite for another round of Olympic programming -- proving that even the third-largest American manufacturer of dry pasta can capture the appetite of new consumers by using a Summer Game tie-in and promoting it online.


B2B vendors know that the Olympics is a perfect time to flaunt their techno-prowess. PricewaterhouseCoopers got its number crunchers to project the U.S. Olympic team will win 70 medals in Athens, compared to 97 in Australia. The PWC study explains that such complex factors as population, relative income levels and political factors are major determinants of how a country does at the Games.


Electronics manufacturers like Samsung and Sony are betting that new product demos in their commercials drive users to online and bricks-and-mortar retailers to purchase special Olympic-themed merchandise.


Thousands of miles from Athens, in Kuala Lampur, Telekom Malaysia Berhad teams with host Olympic broadcaster RTM for the launch of a new Web site that is designed to capture surfers eager to upgrade to prepaid hotspot and streaming technologies. Wouldn’t every Web master love to have the host broadcaster driving traffic to their sites? Smart digital marketing knows no geographic boundaries.


Mobile marketing -- Olympics-to-go


Multimedia messaging services (MMS) are just heating up in the United States, but in Asia they already have legions of fans. As most mobile marketers are discovering, success in these new media depends on opt-in campaigns to drive users to you versus unsolicited push campaigns that send messages without permission.


Wireless service providers (WSPs) in China are learning this lesson the hard way. The top three WSPs have been suspended from operating by China Mobile Communications Corp. for push promotion violations. They were required to refund user payments, so don’t look for any Olympic mobile messaging in China this month.    


In the United States, messaging is at the forefront of Olympic sponsor AT&T’s campaign, but the telco is not the only game in town for mobile users who want the latest medal count on-demand. ILoop Mobile Inc. a leader in premium text messaging, is partnering with STATS, Inc.,  a sports information provider, to deliver Premium SMS (text messaging) sports subscription services, beginning with an Olympic mobile campaign. “Athens 2004 On Your Cell” allows audiences to follow their favorite U.S. team real-time on their mobiles. The promotion is being featured in print media ads and online. Subscribers who opt-in to the service are also entered into a sweepstakes to win a trip to Athens. To encourage ongoing use during the Games, each message users receive counts as an additional entry in the contest.


To starts the service, Michael Becker -- president and COO ILoop Mobile -- says that fans who are Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, Cingular and T Mobile subscribers text message the word “TEAM” to the common short code (CSC) 47467. Users are charged 30 cents for each message they receive. They can, of course, opt out at any time by texting “TEAM STOP to the same CSC. The opt-in and opt-out options are crucial to the integrity of any mobile marketing program, Becker says. Like many brands, ILoopMobile is using the Olympics promo as a prelude to a fall campaign that will feature sports alerts and updates for college and professional teams.


Spammers vaulting over accepted marketing guidelines have driven a 50-fold increase in Olympics-related spam in the past six months. Michael Gaudette, product manager  for email security firm Vircom Inc., says, “Spammers know what sells -- and right now it’s the Olympics.” After the Games are over, he predicts a quick move into back-to-school spam.


Sex sells at any time and the print edition of Playboy magazine is featuring a controversial 12-page nude editorial in its “Women of the Olympics” September issue. Playboy.com visitors can venture behind the scenes of the Games by reading an exclusive inside report from Athens by September’s cover girl Amy Acuff, U.S. Olympic high jumper and two-time Olympian. Acuff says, for example, “A number of athletes in the Village -- people who know they don’t have a chance -- are there to have a party.”


Big screens get bigger


No Olympic party would be complete without a big flat-screen TV. In Japan, Dentsu Inc. says that the Summer Games will generate direct spending there of more than $3.6 billion, and roughly three-quarters of that will stem from purchases of digital electronics such as flat-panel televisions. In Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district, many of the major electronic makers introduced new liquid crystal display and plasma panel products in time to meet the Olympic-related demand. Anyone tuning into local commercials around the world has probably seen their nearby electronics dealer touting big screens for the big games. A quick trip online shows the Web site of the NBC affiliate in Montana jumping onto the bandwagon by listing all of its local advertisers, led, of course, by a top TV dealer.


No big screen at-home? Well, if you’re in New Zealand you can head to the Britomart Transport Centre to catch the action on a giant big screen and relax at an outdoor bar. Across the pond in Yorkshire, England, head for Whitefriargate where the Hull City Council’s bold promotion -- buying and erecting a giant screen at the cost of more than $300,000 -- is gathering gawkers and controversy. Built on scaffolding, many locals think it looks like a building site in progress; others are entranced by the new electronic landmark. Back in the U.S., NBC and Universal CityWalk shopping and entertainment center in North Hollywood offered locals and visitors an opportunity to celebrate the Opening grand ceremony with a giant outdoor big-screen extravaganza saluting the Summer Games and the new NBC and Universal connection. 


Are customers confused?


With venues and brands in thousands of locales around the world piggybacking onto the Olympics campaign, many consumers are confused about who the official Olympic sponsors are. Rather than shelling out $75 million for official Olympics sponsorship rights, savvy marketers are hiring retired athletes like Sprint did with gymnast Mary Lou Retton or using simple word play like Corvette’s “official car of your dream” to influence audiences. Olympic watchdogs are said to have forced non-sponsor Choice Hotels to back off after the hotel chain offered tickets to the games in a promotion.


So here's a hint to marketers -- check with legal advisors and sweepstakes consultants before jumping onto the bandwagon for 2006.


Joyce A. Schwarz is an author and emerging technology marketing consultant in Marina Del Rey, California. Her firm JCOM specializes in online and offline events and product launches.

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