PyeongChang 2018: The quest for Olympic gold...for brands

Just like the athletes, whether or not marketers have what it takes will play out on the global stage, says Momentum Worldwide's president and CMO.

We find ourselves just hours away from the broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies of PyeongChang 2018, where world-class competitors will vie for our hearts and minds over the next three weeks. But I’m not talking about the athletes, I’m talking about the brands who will spend more dollars—renminbi, yen, won, euros—leveraging the Olympic rings during these Games than many brands will spend in a lifetime. 

And just like the athletes, whether or not they have what it takes to win Olympic Gold will play out on the global stage. What are some of the challenges these brands will face as the flame is lit in PyeongChang Olympic Stadium? 

Share of brain
Despite this being one of the few truly global sporting events, along with the Summer Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, the Winter Olympics has a way of sneaking up on you. It’s really not until we hear that Olympic theme song and get our first glimpse of athletes walking under their country’s flag do we really turn on to the Olympics.

The weeks that follow tend to capture our imagination, giving advertisers fertile ground to embed themselves in our consciousness. This means Olympic advertisers must compete in a crowded environment and at a frenetic pace for consumer’s affection. If you miss a mark there is no time to recover. Before you know it, it’s Closing Ceremony and consumers’ engagement with all things Olympics will soon be dormant again. 

That will be how much?
Much like the Super Bowl, the cost to partner with the Olympics does not come cheap, upwards of $200 million for a four-year partnership. NBC, in fact, expects to beat its own record of $1.1 billion in ad revenue from the Sochi Games in 2014. But if you’re a player at this level, those numbers don’t frighten. 

Look no further than Alibaba, which is making its global debut as eCommerce and cloud provider to the Olympics, in a deal worth a purported $1 billion to the IOC. It’s a rare opportunity to introduce its brand to the world with a clean slate, a blank canvas on which to paint a powerful story to millions of new consumers. Add to that the Olympic-sized pressure to not screw it up. 

Resistance is futile
In many brand organizations, the "marketing mix" isn’t a mix at all, but a collection of silos. Brand, Advertising, Media, PR, Experiential often have dedicated leaders who may be all working toward the same goal, but not in unison on the way there. Consumers don’t separate those myriad brand messages. Brands who don’t get it together risk losing those consumers. On this global stage it’s a must. Fans that spend their day in PyeongChang Olympic stadium and surrounding venues represent an on-the-ground-opportunity brands would be remiss to pass on. 

During the Rio games, Proctor and Gamble went so far as collecting 500 million linens and clothing from athletes and their families to be washed by the Tide Professional Laundry Station. P&G also created a Family Home center for Olympians and their families with complimentary services including hot shaves in barber chairs, hair styling, makeovers and nail treatments. They created a true "home away from home" and in the process created shareable experiences for consumers beyond the games. 

Get social
The manner in which these Games will be consumed will be unlike any other that has come before it. And that is simply a reflection of today’s consumer. Brands not embracing social and mobile technologies as a key part of their marketing mix will miss out. New to these Games is Snapchat, launching a new feature called "Live" that will let users view NBC’s live TV broadcast, an idea unfathomable only a few years ago. 

For many consumers, social is not only a destination to connect with friends, it’s a platform for purchasing products. Statista reported 49 percent of consumers between 18 and 29 years old purchased products after viewing an ad on social. It is not just ads on social that drive consumers, it’s the conversations those ads start.

We saw this most recently at the Super Bowl where brands like Tostitos created personal invites for people hosting Super Bowl parties to send to their friends. Meant to be engaging and fun, they also provided the snack brand with invaluable first-party data that will help them immensely in future campaigns. Tostitos was smart to personalize the invites, as it’s true that not all social campaigns are viewed equally.

Olympic debutant or long-time sponsor, the Olympics represents one of the biggest advertising opportunities in the world. Audiences gravitate towards these big moments and are excited to be part of the global conversation. For brands that want to separate themselves from their competition and be a truly global brand, they need to take a cue from the Olympians. Seize the opportunity, build their legacy, and go for gold.

Kevin McNulty is President and CMO at Momentum Worldwide.