On Your Mark, Get Set, Advertise: Olympics Marketing Strategy

Digital Marketing
On Your Mark, Get Set, Advertise: Olympics Marketing Strategy
Article by Szabolcs Szecsei
Last Updated: May 31, 2024

With the 2024 Olympic Games just around the corner and with more than one million followers on Instagram, people across the globe are getting excited. What’s better than watching sports with your friends over chilled drinks in the summer heat? Very few things.

In addition to the fun times that they offer sports enthusiasts from all corners of the globe, the Olympics also present marvelous marketing opportunities. With an engaged audience counting in the billions, the games boast a unique opportunity for brands to connect with a global audience via diverse advertising and marketing tactics.

You’ve probably guessed it, in this article, we will explore the basics of an effective Olympics marketing strategy. Read on to learn all about it!

Olympics Marketing Strategy: What Is Sports Marketing?

Sports marketing is essentially promoting your services or products via the world of sports and reaching out to audiences between different sports disciplines such as swimming, football, soccer, gymnastics, and other events or contests.

Some brands may opt to partner with athletes, sports events or teams to showcase themselves. Have you seen the 2022 Mercedes S-Class commercial with F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, tennis player Roger Federer, and singer Alicia Keys? In short, that would be sports marketing kicking into high gear. True, the ad is a very high-profile example, but there’s an abundance of campaigns that could be considered sports marketing — from sponsoring a prominent athlete to joining the excitement with only subtle seasonal changes to your brand logo or website.

What’s really exciting about Olympics marketing is that it does more than just try to sell products or services. It creates connections and evokes emotions. Sports fans are a passionate bunch and are highly loyal to their teams and athletes. Brands can leverage that passion and dedication to forge unique and special connections.

Another way to embrace this marketing approach is to create specific services or products for fans, making them feel like they’re a part of something much bigger.

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The Legal Aspects of Olympic Marketing

While Olympics marketing is a great way to leverage the excitement and the buildup behind the event, before devising a strategy, it’s imperative that you comply with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) pertaining rules. These guidelines detail the use of participant media (such as images or video footage) for advertising both for non-partners and partners, along with how brands should conduct their related advertising during the games.

Olympic Partners

These are the brands that have official sponsorship contracts with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) or the IOC. They are given specific advertising privileges, like using official participant media materials for their marketing campaigns. However, they also must abide by the rules set by the IOC to get consent from participants.

They are also allowed to run congratulatory ads.

Non-Olympic Partners

These are companies that are not official partners of the games. Usually, they may also use images and other footage of participants for advertising purposes during the duration of the games, but only if they adhere to the NOCs and IOC regulations and if they have obtained official consent. However, non-Olympic partners can’t use Olympic properties and should fall under the category of generic advertising, which involves specific restrictions, and must be communicated to the NOC and the IOC.

It’s also important to know that all marketing activities must comply with the IOC’s rules, including marketing activities that relate to restricted areas, and the use of prohibited sponsorship categories such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and drugs.

Online thank-you messages from participants to their sponsors are allowed, as long as there’s no hidden commercial promotion in them or they don’t violate any established policies. The thank-you messages should be transparent and shouldn’t talk about how a service or product improved the athlete’s performance.

Olympic Marketing: How To Be a Part of the Paris 2024 Olympics

As soon as the organizers announced the host city for 2024’s games, a myriad of brands started devising different strategies to leverage the massive media attention and global exposure that surrounds the event. Although viewership has decreased in comparison to the 2016 Rio Games, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was still watched by a total of 3.05 billion viewers.

The last event ushered in a new trend of digital Olympics engagement, generating a whopping 218,000 hours of coverage across more than 250 platforms and receiving an incredible 4 billion impressions in social media engagement.

How can brands and marketers leverage the hype this year? Below are only a few worthwhile strategies to explore.

Partnerships and Sponsorships

Athlete and team partnerships or sponsorships are fundamental sports marketing strategies that certainly don’t skip the Olympics. By becoming an official sponsor or partner, brands can gain massive exposure and credibility through reaching a highly engaged global audience.

The French sports goods distributor, Decathlon is a great example of this approach. The brand is an official supporter of this year’s games, outfitting around 45,000 volunteers both for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.

Partnerships and Sponsorships
[Source: Decathlon]

As a part of their campaign, the French giant aims to engage the French community directly. With a total of 330 stores across France, Decathlon will host several Olympics-themed events, such as sports activities and challenges, engaging audiences of all age groups. Naturally, the retailer will sell Olympics-branded products too.

Another great example is Airbnb, which has enjoyed a great collaboration with the IOC since 2019. They are the official sponsor of the games and the go-to accommodation provider until 2028. The agreement between the two partners will span three summer and two winter Olympics, cementing the brand’s name internationally.

Contests, Events, and Brand Activations

Brand activations are distinctive experiences that aim to create a lasting emotional connection between a target audience and a brand. Brand activations may be experiences or events that lead to audience interaction and raise brand awareness.

They can help inspire good sportsmanship and are an excellent way to create lasting connections during this year’s Olympics. Brand activations can be tailored to businesses of all sizes, not necessitating official partnerships and large-scale campaigns like Decathlon’s. Even small but thoughtful and creatively organized events can offer great opportunities for brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

1. Themed Events

Olympics-themed sports events can be an effective way to raise awareness and engage your target audience. These can be specific sports tournaments or simple training sessions with your local athletes – the aim is to offer standout experiences for people who want to immerse themselves in the games’ atmosphere.

You may also leverage public spaces to bring the Olympics closer to your community. From sports-inspired art exhibitions to interactive game zones, brand activations open opportunities for brands to showcase themselves to the public in a positive and meaningful way.

2. Creativity Contests

Creativity events organized either offline or online offer exciting ways to boost participation, while also increasing opportunities for user-generated content. For businesses and agencies alike, this can range from sports photography competitions to Olympic logo design challenges, and more. The aim is to encourage people to showcase their creativity and help them engage with your brand in a relevant and fun way.

3. Guerilla Marketing Tactics

Guerilla marketing can be an excellent Olympic marketing strategy if you are running a small business and have limited resources to invest in your campaign. Guerilla tactics are very impactful, and cost-effective ways to stand out during the games. Consider artistic interventions, sports-themed flash mobs in urban spaces, or similar creative tactics that can have a massive impact without spending a substantial amount of money.

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Social Media Marketing Strategies

According to PuroMarketing, this year’s games will be a massive social media event, following Tokyo’s record of 3.2 billion interactions on the Olympics’ official channels. Here's how brands can implement several exciting strategies to leverage this engagement on their social channels before, during, and after the games.

1. Crafting Compelling Anticipation Campaigns

Brands can fuel excitement if they can get exclusive content about the preparations of the Olympics. Behind-the-scenes footage and athlete interviews can be invaluable marketing assets, but even creative social content created from official press releases can be highly engaging too.

Later, brands can keep their audience updated with real-time content about the events. These may be real-time reactions, live highlight streams, post-competition interviews or commentary, and more.

2. Embrace Visual Platforms

TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and other video-heavy platforms can also offer many opportunities to showcase your creativity, while connecting with your target audience. When creating content for these channels, ensure that it’s tailored to the specific channel’s characteristics.

Focus on sharing posts and stories on Instagram, short narratives and reviews on TikTok, and reserve YouTube for longer formats, such as podcasts.

Embrace Visual Platforms
[Source: The Hustle]

3. Diversify Your Social Arsenal

Leverage your social channels and their features as much as you can. For instance, why not try influencer collaborations by partnering with well-known figures from the world of sports, and creating engaging content that can boost brand visibility.

It’s also imperative to stay on top of trends. You can create immersive AR-powered experiences for your social followers on TikTok, and take part in other Olympics-related trends, like hashtags, or other specials and challenges.

Olympic Content Marketing Strategies

Olympics-inspired content is imperative if you want to ensure your brand stands out. Here are a few tips on creating content that embraces the Olympic fervor.

1. Create Unique Content, but Stick to Brand Consistency

This isn’t a strategy but more of a reminder. If you want to achieve the best possible results from your Olympic marketing endeavors, you’ll still need to keep your branding consistent. When opting for Olympics-related topics or trends, never forget the visual styles, fonts, colors, tone of voice, and vocabulary that you’ve been using in your branding until this point.

2. Create Thematic Content

There is a myriad of overarching topics and content formats worth trying out. For example, you may explore the podcast format and delve into different stories about Olympic athletes. You may create Instagram videos about the history and legacy of the Olympics, or film interviews with prominent sports figures on Olympics-related topics. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

3. Consider Shooting a Documentary

A mini doc-series about the athletes participating this year might be a huge undertaking, but a very exciting and rewarding endeavor too. Consider talking about their journey, prior victories, challenges and sacrifices. This may be a great approach for marketing agencies who have the necessary equipment and expertise to shoot and produce the series.

Consider Shooting a Documentary
[Source: Perspectives in Anthropology]

Distributing the series to television channels or streaming platforms once the Olympics are over is another creative way to make your name heard and remembered.

4. Embrace User-Generated Content

Embracing the help of your followers to achieve your content marketing goals is rewarding in numerous ways. Often, with the right idea, you will be able to generate a great amount of interest by only spending limited resources on the project. At the same time, users feel more engaged as they get involved in the process of content creation.

Encourage your followers to share videos or photos of them visiting the Olympics, participating in sports, or performing any other related activities and get them to tag you in their posts or stories. They’ll be happy and you’ll be happy – it's a win-win!

Email Marketing for the Olympics

Another great way to jump on the Olympics content bandwagon is through spreading their spirit in email marketing.

Incorporating some of the Olympics content you’ve already created in emails can help improve your click-through rates and offer your email list another way to see it in case they’ve missed it on your other platforms.

If you are already running a podcast on your YouTube channel, consider adding short video inserts from the last episode, or build up momentum with your mini docuseries. If applicable, you may also incorporate a few special Olympics-inspired offers while the event is running, adding more value for your readers.

Some technologies even offer live streaming directly via email, which can also be a great way to help feature real-time events more interactively.

Olympics Marketing Strategy Takeaways

Embracing the Olympics as a great marketing opportunity shouldn’t be a move reserved only for sportswear brands and corporate giants. With the right attitude and creativity, businesses of all sizes can join in on the action in various ways, as long as they have valuable and creative ideas that don’t violate the Olympics regulations.

Olympics Marketing Strategy FAQs

Do you need to become an official partner of the IOC to run Olympics marketing campaigns?

No, you don’t have to be an official IOC partner to run Olympics-inspired campaigns, as long as you don’t violate the committee’s regulations for non-partners. On that note, becoming an official partner or sponsoring a team or an athlete may bring you more credibility, but isn’t ultimately necessary to show your brand’s involvement and dedication. A few creative ideas and a bit of planning can also go a long way.

What are good examples of marketing tactics for the Olympics?

Given the massive social success of Tokyo 2020, businesses and marketers alike can always leverage their social channels to jump on the Olympics bandwagon and generate more buzz. Brands can create and reshare content or work with influencers in the sports world.

Is it possible for a small business to benefit from the Olympics hype without spending a fortune on marketing?

Small businesses can also capitalize on the anticipation and excitement with guerilla marketing strategies. These could mean aligning their services or products with the spirit of the games, collaborating with local athletes, or using their social media channels to spark community engagement and conversations.

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