Creative ways to capture advertising gold

9:15 AM, 19 August 2016

Creative advertising during the olympics

Going for advertising gold

The scale of the Olympics, both locally and globally, makes brand association a compelling proposition for many brands. These relationships, however, are tightly controlled and protected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and national bodies. Yet, there is little doubt that beyond official sponsorships brands are increasingly pushing the boundaries on what athletics brand Brooks has termed the "generic worldwide quadrennial sporting event".

Ambush marketing is nothing new around major sporting events. Do you remember when Nike sponsored the 1996 Olympics? Well, they didn't -- but many remembered Michael Johnson's gold Nike shoes more than Reebok's official sponsorship.

In Australia this year, Telstra won in court against the Australian Olympic Committee over promoting its sponsorship of Seven's Olympics app as: "The official technology partner of Seven's Olympic Games Coverage". For the AOC, and their partner Optus, this was a significant legal precedent.

So-called ambush marketing is an established phenomenon, but social media has changed the "rules" by becoming a near perfect vehicle for this strategy. Event regulations sometimes make it tricky for official sponsors to respond quickly and effectively to events in the campaign. Ambush brands, however, can move with greater speed.

This poses a serious challenge for the owners of other major sporting events -- all of whom tend towards a similar approach. The IOC tries to address ambush marketing by obliging host nations to introduce anti-ambush legislation, but arguably this just forces ambushers to become even more creative and eye-catching.

Who has cheekily capitalised on the Olympic spirit?

Brands, such as Ford in the US, have created ads that allude to the Olympics. They include a guy performing a pommel horse routine on top of his Ford Escape; a weightlifter loading boxes into the back of her SUV; and a clapping dog.

A few of the executions get a little cheekier, showing the doors of an Escape opening and closing with the taglines: "here's to a ceremonious opening" and "here's to a ceremonious closing," respectively.

During the London Olympics in 2012, Paddy Power announced itself official sponsor of an egg and spoon race, saying it was sponsoring the "biggest athletics event in London" -- then pointing out it meant in the town of London in the French region of Burgundy.

Social media provides another golden opportunity

Social media is now so vital for advertisers -- the current situation potentially weakens the business case for spending vast amounts of money on sponsoring these events.

It's not as if this is the only question mark against them either. Reported figures from a spontaneous recognition survey following Euro 2016 showed, for instance, that while 11% of people interviewed in the UK correctly identified Adidas as an official sponsor, 9% incorrectly thought that Nike was one, too. MasterCard, another sponsor, had a similar problem with Visa.

In this world, can major sports tournaments regain the upper hand? Do they need to be less restrictive on their sponsorship partners and develop an approach better suited to the social media environment? If not, they risk jeopardising the premium value of official partnerships.

What are you thoughts on official sport sponsorships? Will harsher restrictions create a clear distinction for official sponsors or will unofficial advertisers just find another way? All feedback, queries, and opinions are welcomed to

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