Brand Engagement Takes Marketing Gold at 2012 Olympics

The 2012 Olympic Games are a brand-heavy event. It doesn’t matter where you live or what you do, it’s likely that you’ve come into contact with some form of Olympics-related marketing from brands in recent months. Now, that the Games have started, it appears that brands are taking the concept of event sponsorship to a new level and reaping the rewards.

london olympics 2012Event sponsorship isn’t a new strategy for brands to increase awareness, recognition, trial, and loyalty. However, it has evolved into a more useful part of an integrated marketing campaign in recent years.

Back in 1996, I worked in the marketing department for a division of AT&T, a sponsor of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. That sponsorship permeated into every area of the company, and every marketing department leveraged the sponsorship to build promotions, advertising, publicity, premium items, and more. The Olympic Games became an opportunity for both internal and external brand marketing.

For most brands, Olympics sponsorship is a huge monetary investment, and the return on that investment can takes years to realize. However, Olympics brand sponsorship is a long-term investment that delivers both goodwill and brand buzz for a long time. It’s not a one-time ad that is gone in 30-seconds. Today, Olympics sponsorship becomes the cornerstone of a powerful integrated marketing campaign, and that campaign gets an even bigger boost thanks to social media.

The 2012 Olympic Games brand sponsors are enjoying an unprecedented level of brand buzz and brand engagement via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, and more. People are talking about the Games, sharing information, and engaging with each other. Clever brands that add value to those conversations can increase brand engagement, too.

For example, P&G is leading the brand buzz race based on online conversations and sharing of commercials from Olympic sponsor brands. The 2012 Olympics Brand Tracker from Unruly Media shows which brand is in the lead (updated twice daily), and P&G has held the top spot leading up to and during the early days of the Olympic Games. Rather than simply communicating how great P&G’s many products are, the company pursued a wider brand-building campaign that taps into emotions (by focusing on athletes’ moms) and jump starts brand engagement.

Try the interactive brand tracker below by clicking on the Start Race button.

In 2012, Olympics sponsors are actively adding social media elements to their integrated marketing campaigns, and brand buzz and engagement are spreading. ESPN launched the “My Country, My Cheer” Facebook application where users can share their “cheers” on their Facebook timelines, invite others to participate, and spread the word on their Twitter profiles.

General Electric, VISA, and Coca-Cola all have big social media marketing campaigns tied to their Olympics sponsorships. McDonald’s also has a social media marketing push tied into the Olympics that brings employees into the excitement. That’s in addition to its complete integrated marketing campaign that even includes advertising in store signage and globally that invites customers to order in their own languages at locations surrounding the Olympics venue in London.

All of these efforts have something in common. Rather than simply trying to sell products and services, they are trying to add value to consumers’ experiences with the brands and the sponsored event — the Olympics. The goal is for the added-value to be useful and interesting enough that consumers’ engagement and relationships with the brand extends beyond the Olympic Games. That’s the key to brand engagement success, and it’s the subject of my next series here on the AYTM blog so stay tuned!

Image: Peter Burgess

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.