10 Ways Companies Use the Olympics to Promote Their Brands


For the past couple of weeks, all eyes have been on PyeongChang, South Korea (not to be confused with P.F. Changs). With the Winter Olympics coming to a close, we’ve taken some time to reflect on the marketing campaigns of Olympic sponsors. Take a look at how some of the biggest brands are promoting themselves in front of over 20 million people.

  1. The International Olympic Committee has made $410 million from marketing arrangements with their sponsors. The longest-running sponsor, Coca-Cola, has partnered with the Olympics since 1928. For the 2018 Winter Olympics, Coca-Cola used branded products to create a competition for their customers. Using sip & scan™ technology, Coca-Cola encouraged participants to scan the labels on the packaging of any Coca-Cola products to win prizes like vouchers for United Airlines flights, a snowboard, an inflatable bobsled, and more!

  1. Sponsored brands like GE, Coca-Cola, Visa, Intel, and The North Face are some of the biggest sponsors of the Olympics and have exclusive rights to the Olympics brand. In 2016, Rule 40 was initiated to protect the Olympics from over-commercialization and prevent any ambush marketing from non-sponsor companies. This means the 13 companies that sponsor the Olympics are the only ones allowed to include Olympics branding into their marketing campaigns.
  2. NBC paid $4.4 billion for the broadcast rights to the Olympics through 2020 and another $7.65 billion for the broadcast rights to the Olympics from 2021 through 2032. Though network television has been threatened by the rising popularity of streaming services, NBC is still averaging about 20 million prime-time viewers and sold over $900 million of advertising for Pyeongchang.
  3. Some companies can also ask for Olympic waivers which give them approved marketing opportunities on the condition they cannot use Olympic symbols or references.
  • For example, GoPro uploaded a video of Olympians such as U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson on social media before the Games. So, although GoPro couldn’t make any references to the Olympics, nothing really promotes their product more than experiencing a snowboarding run through the eyes of an Olympic gold medalist. Bill McCullough, the executive producer for GoPro’s sports content, stated, “The Olympic Games represents not only a huge opportunity to reach a wider, more diverse and global audience, but also to discover and deliver those episodic stories we’re looking for.”

  • Apple also lent 15 gold iPads and more than a dozen Apple Watches to the U.S. bobsled team’s coaching and support staff at the Olympics. The team used the iPads to record the practice sessions. They also downloaded an app that provides them the ability to save multiple video clips of runs and view them in slow motion, compare their sleds to other sleds and help organize the video for future reference. During an interview, the team’s coach, Mike Kohn, stated how much the iPads and Apple Watches improved their training sessions. And just like that, Apple got promoted by an Olympic team.
  1. Visa and NBC launched a shopping platform where fans can buy similar Team USA gear worn by their favorite athletes. Visa also has Team Visa that showcases all the athletes they sponsor throughout the Olympics holding – you guessed it – Visa cards.
  2. Visa also created contactless payment-enabled wearables that will be available for purchase in South Korea before and during the Games. As payment options are moving to a more digital platform, Visa is determined to keep up the changing technology. Visa is leading the charge on changing technology with more than 1,000 contactless point-of-sale terminals capable of accepting mobile and wearable payments.
  3. Hershey’s created “gold” chocolate bars made from caramel and pretzels with the tagline “Taste the Gold” to promote the U.S. gold medalists. They also used their sponsorship of the Olympics to promote the Team USA Winterfest where they offered samples of the chocolate, as well as photo opportunities with a Hershey’s character. People who attended the Winterfest were encouraged to post their pictures on social media, thus increasing Hershey’s brand reach.

  1. Medalists are presented with a stuffed animal and a wooden gift depicting the mountain setting of the games before they are given their medals. Instead of receiving the traditional bouquet of flowers, this white tiger toy is a sustainable replacement that will last a lot longer. Even the medalists agree to the new change! After receiving her tiger, Jamie Anderson said, “I like it, keep it original and mix it up.” Silver medalist, Chris Madzer also commented that the white tiger will have a spot right next to his medal in the trophy case. 272 of these stuffed tigers have been passed out so far, and you can even buy one for yourself here!

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

  1. We all know how popular apparel is in our industry. Polo Ralph Lauren designed the preppy, patriotic opening and closing ceremony outfits for the U.S. athletes. Ralph Lauren used the launch of their Olympic line to promote their innovative heating technology. With Team USA branding, the jackets are made from electronically printed conductive inks that are flexible and stretchable. They also connect to a battery pack with three settings and can keep you warm for 11 hours. Check out the Team USA collection here.

Ralph Lauren

  1. Unfortunately, not every promotion goes exactly right. Samsung gave away 4,000 of the latest $1,100 Samsung Galaxy Note 8 smartphones to athletes attending the Winter Games. But not everyone was able to receive the phones as athletes North Korea and Iran are not able to take home the tech giveaways due to U.N. sanctions on luxury goods. Iran has the biggest smartphone market in the Middle East and 51% of Android phones in Iran are made by Samsung. Taking advantage of the tension between Samsung and Iran, LG (Samsung’s rival) stepped in and offered every Iranian Olympic athlete a smartphone and a 55-inch TV.

What were your some of your favorite Olympic promotions? Tell us about it in the comments!












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