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The Olympics is a truly worldwide event with an estimated four billion people watching the opening ceremony and 204 nations competing. This global reach, along with thousands of ready-made role models in the shape of dedicated athletes and messages of teamwork and healthy living, made the Games an unparalleled platform for brands to speak to, and engage with, an international audience.
While the UK basks in the success of London 2012, many brands too are celebrating impressive Olympic marketing strategies which have helped boost their reputations globally. As the baton is handed to Rio for 2016, what Olympic marketing lessons can we learn from London 2012?
Going for social gold
Social and digital media had a huge role to play in this year's Olympic Games. Branded as the first social Olympics, London 2012 saw more than 4.4 million mentions of Team GB alone on Twitter during the two-week Games. Social media gives brands a direct channel to their audiences to share messages about their involvement with the Olympics and reflects how hyper-relevant they need to be to innovatively communicate with consumers.
Olympic sponsor AT&T did this very cleverly with a "real-time" advert featuring actual footage of American swimmer Rebecca Soni winning gold in the 200 meter breaststroke. This aired on NBC straight after the broadcaster had shown that very race. Making use of the five-hour time delay between London and New York, AT&T pre-produced the majority of the advert and incorporated the real footage following Soni winning the race at 9pm in London (4pm in New York) for it to be aired at 9.30pm in the United States.
Adidas also capitalised on the real-time nature of the games, releasing a video of members of Team GB including Jessica Ennis, Louis Smith and Pete Reed performing their own version of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" as the Games came to a close on 13th August. The content perfectly captured the mood after the successful Games and quickly went viral. Using the hash tag #stagetaken the video rounded off Adidas': "Take the Stage" campaign, which featured photography, videos and music to support the brand's Olympic sponsorship in the run-up to the games. It seems that the popularity of the campaigns have translated into stores for Adidas -- it reported that sales during the first week of the Games at its London Oxford Street store were higher than in any store ever before.
Proctor & Gamble (P&G) also utilised the reputation of key athletes to support its marketing efforts. Sponsoring 150 athletes including Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton via 34 of its brands including Olay and Gillette, P&G then monitored social media networks and maximised any earned media tweets or mentions and shared or re-tweeted these where appropriate.
The company also used social media to promote its "Proud Sponsors of Mum" campaign, which focused not on athletes but on their mothers. Looking at what it takes to raise an Olympian and why being a mum can be the best job in the world, the campaign featured video and written content on owned websites, social media, TV advertising and on product. The emotive campaign engaged with this core audience, who are ultimately the purchasing decision makers.
BMW meanwhile used the Olympics to promote its iconic Mini brand. The iconic British Mini made a cameo appearance at the opening ceremony and a further 200 were used to transport athletes at the Games. "Mini-Minis" were also created to fetch javelins, discuses, shot-puts and hammers thrown by the athletes from the field back to the throwing area, making additional cameos during the athletics events.
Lessons for Rio
So what lessons can we take away from London 2012 for Rio 2016? Brands need to make sure that they have something interesting and relevant to say, and ensure that there is going to be some form of return on investment, whether it is in immediate sales or through building a more positive brand identity.
BMW's Mini cameo worked because it cleverly connected its own iconic UK heritage with the "Britishness" of the opening ceremony, and its clever, quirky "Mini-Minis" extends the brand's visibility into the Games, giving it another opportunity to connect with its target audience globally. P&G also struck a chord because it created a global marketing campaign that was targeted at a specific audience. While the Olympic audience is huge, it seems that the campaigns that have really resonated have been those that have drilled down and engaged with core markets.
New platforms and technologies continue to evolve and change the way that brands communicate, so who knows what the Twitter or Facebook of 2016 will be. But we can be sure that the real-time nature of London 2012 is likely to continue to evolve for Rio. Through innovate advertising like AT&T or engaging viral content like Adidas, brands can continue to capitalise on this to talk to their audiences in new ways.
Alex Cheeseman is director brands and agencies, Outbrain