Promotional Products & The Olympics

Summer Olympics_SAGE-Blog

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics (goodness, that sounds weird to type) are fully underway! At the time of writing this, the United States has 73 medals – our athletes bringing home a total of 24 in gold, 28 in silver, and 21 in bronze. With about a week left in celebrations and events, there are a whole lot more still up for grabs.

We believe the Olympics were first hosted in 776 BCE, Aristotle gave the first accounts, and historians generally agree with him. We also have archeological finds to confirm this time range—things like vases and coins commemorating the athletes and the attendees. The Olympics continued nationwide in Greece until 395 CE when the Romans had more of a hand in Greek affairs and Emperor Theodosius banned them.

For 1,500 years, the Olympics were just a distant memory until 1895, when they were finally revived – making it a worldwide event with 14 countries participating. Today, 206 countries participate, which means opportunities for worldwide advertising and marketing – after all, would the Olympics be the same without McDonald’s and Coca-Cola’s logos on everything? Or even a cuddly mascot?

Beyond selling tickets to the games and boosting tourism to the host cities, merchandising is by far one of the most significant ways for organizers to make money. Not only can those lucky enough to travel to the Olympic games buy a souvenir to have something tangible to remember the great times they had at the games, but those watching the games from home can order merchandise online. For example, the 2016 Rio games brought in $15.5 million on the merchandise alone – with their biggest seller being a plush of their mascot.

Mascots have been featured in the Olympics since 1968. They were created to draw in a younger crowd – but organizers soon realized mascot’s potential in promotions and marketing, especially with plush toys. This became clear in the Nagano 1998 Olympics when the plush owls sold out in three days, becoming a massive collector’s item before the games were even over. People like cute and cuddly.

Nagano Olympic 1998 Mascot plush

Worldwide brands even get into the action, like the aforementioned McDonald’s and Coca-Cola brands. You can’t turn around without them sponsoring some collectible or even, well, a swimming pool like in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where McDonald’s built the McDonald’s Olympic Swim Stadium—featured here in this commemorative tray.

1984 Los Angeles Olympics McDonald’s Tray

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics (still weird) look like they will also have a successful run on merch. Official stores were initially stocked with 1,700 products but saw traditional promotional products such as pins and mugs quickly selling out (tried and true!) – even the official online store was unavailable after a surge of visitors to the site, overwhelming the servers.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Mascot Plush

As we move forward from the pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (I really don’t like writing that) are a fantastic reminder and example of the power of promotional products in a post-pandemic world: they still work! People want promo products, especially those surrounded by such positivity (and maybe even cute and cuddly like Tokyo’s mascot, Miraitowa), now more than ever.

What do you think are the most popular promo products this year? Tell us in the comments!

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(Marketing Content Writer)

Betty is the Marketing Content Writer at SAGE. She is a self-proclaimed, bonafide nerd, and when she's not writing, you can find her playing video games, watching space documentaries, hunting for vintage Star Wars toys, and binge-watching the latest show on Netflix.

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