The Olympic Games have finally begun. As the most unique of all Olympics gets underway, it’s interesting reflecting on how recent events have influenced and continue to influence a new “manual” for scaled event sponsorships.
I requested my advisers to evaluate new and previous recommendations for sponsoring large-scale events such as the Olympics. Their recommendations are as follows:
Trends in audience (targeting, messaging, and media):
• It’s true that the cost of the event is 20% of the total cost of the program. Instead of a “simple” presence, savvy sponsors have shifted their programs and funds to sales and brand equity-driven activation.
• Determine the genuine cause for the event and the role the brand may play in actively supporting it. This is simple for some firms (sports gear, sports beverages), but far more difficult for others. Many ( Olympic ) sports sponsors are now emphasizing “how the athlete got there” with the assistance of school, parents, diet, mental health, and other factors. Another option is to engage with athletes at all levels of a sport, enabling or supporting worthwhile causes.
• The heart of a successful sponsorship should be diversity and inclusiveness (and an Olympic ideal). This is most evident in the celebrities chosen to be the campaign’s faces and voices.
• Any sponsorship will have an important and rising component of sustainability. The event’s environmental impact, athletes’ choices in support of sustainability, and carbon footprint standards from sports organizers are all increasingly commonplace.
• Many major sporting events are becoming increasingly elderly. Companies risk missing out on the next generation if they don’t engage younger people on their terms, using their preferred media, and in a timely manner.
• There are a plethora of options for developing employee or commercial/seller engagement programs that have a proven track record of increasing sales or corporate profile.
• Smart sponsors interact with the event and key actors on a regular basis, not just during the event. Because you’ll be building on an existing basis, your actual Olympic activation during the event will be significantly more successful.
• The tale and content fountains are the main events. The days of having a hero TV commercial, some digital assets, and a little social media are long gone. Use social media and other related avenues to “unleash” your players or sports groups. Many are skilled content creators who can assist in increasing engagement. Most “official media partners” do not have the same level of legitimacy as their stations.
• To get a thorough picture of ROI, you’ll need to consider both hard value components (e.g., media exposure, sales driven by channels whose audience was produced by Olympic coverage, etc.) and actual “on the ground” value (stadium and athlete presence). Then there are the soft value components: In comparison to individuals who were not exposed to or interested in sponsorship, how did it affect brand equity? What impact did it have on people recruitment, retention of top performers, employee and stakeholder morale, and so on?
• If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the 18-month COVID disruption, it’s the importance of adaptability and rapid change. Are you prepared to deal with your star athlete’s absence due to illness or scandal? Are you prepared to determine whether you want (or need) to pull ads in a certain area, as Toyota did in Japan, and do you have a backup plan?
Your marketing ecosystem (your teams, your agencies) will need to perform at Olympic levels around major events like the Olympics. It’s a lot of work, but as with any sport, planning and training pays dividends.