Most Olympic athletes will need to wait for the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris (on July 26) to start competing for the gold, but the competition among sponsor brands is already under way.
For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) TOP sponsors – TOP stands for “The Olympic Program”, the highest and most expensive level of association with the Olympic Games – the preparation for Paris began years ago. In fact, the day after Paris was awarded the Games, many of the 10+ TOPs probably contacted the French delegation to congratulate them, introduced themselves and scheduled their first meetings.
TOP sponsors always have a head start. They are the only brands that know they will be sponsoring the Olympics seven years ahead of time (Paris was awarded the 2024 Summer Games in September of 2017). But the advantage that allows them to plan and act earlier than most of the local sponsors, surprisingly, is not fully leveraged and sometimes is simply wasted.
In times of unprecedented economic challenges where executives are under massive pressure to deliver short-term results, it is no surprise an event happening many years into the future is not a senior leader’s priority. Their lack of focus reduces the advantages TOP sponsors acquired when they signed up as a sponsor, making their marketers’ work harder when the project finally kicks off.
The most evident proof TOP sponsors are not taking advantage of their status is how difficult it is for most people to name them. There are 15 global companies in this category (Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola/Mengniu, Intel, Deloitte, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, Toyota, and Visa). Some of them have been around for decades. In fact, it is highly probable that none of us have ever seen the Olympic Games without Coca-Cola (sponsor since 1928). Still, when we think about iconic Olympic campaigns, it is hard to name more than a handful.
To name the three most memorable, there’s Coca-Cola’s Olympic Torch Relay, a program they have run in every Olympics since Barcelona in 1992; P&G’s successful “Thank you Mom” campaign (started at the Vancouver Games in 2010); and the Visa athletes’ program with more than a thousand sponsored athletes over the years. All others are mostly forgettable, failing to stand out.
It’s tough to comprehend considering these companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a sponsorship. True success as an Olympics TOP sponsor goes beyond money.
They need an idea that moves you.
More than in any other partnership, purpose matters at the Olympics. What your brand stands for and how it adds value to the Olympics, fans and the world can be the difference between a gold medal campaign (pun intended) and all the others.
When TOPs start their work late, agencies’ briefings are rushed and uninspiring, deadlines are tight and the time for creative development is squeezed to a minimum. The result is often substandard communication. The activation window is very narrow. Unlike everyday marketing, when campaigns can be delayed until the company is satisfied with the results and can be run almost indefinitely, the Olympics have limitations.
Brands have from three to five months maximum to deploy all their creative, tell their story and generate the business results they need. They simply can’t afford to have a campaign that doesn’t work. They need a great idea perfectly executed to stand out in the crowded Olympic space. The Games will start with or without your brand, so you’d better be ready when the Olympic flame is lit.
They need knowledge.
Olympic marketing is not regular marketing. There is specific knowledge necessary to succeed.
Your brand will not be alone, it will be side-by-side with the Olympic rings. That comes with IOC rules and regulations that must be strictly followed. Approvals are complex and time sensitive. There are things you cannot say and images you cannot use (infringements in other TOPs’ rights are common, apparel brands’ logos on athletes’ uniforms are a traditional problem, etc.), there are dates that must be leveraged (think 100 days out, the day Team USA is confirmed, the first medal, the setbacks, etc.), and much more.
Unless you are tuned into the Olympic world, you risk developing creative that won’t be approved, miss the publishing deadlines and waste budgets.
They need consistency.
Inconsistency is certainly a driver for invisibility. Some of the most successful marketing of the last half century has been built over time. Think MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign, Nike’s “Just Do It”, and Apple’s “Think Different”. The Olympics are no different.
TOP sponsorships are multi-Games by design. Every company generally signs up for eight or twelve years of sponsorship. But frequent internal management changes – particularly in senior marketing positions – leads to reinventing how their brands talk about the Olympics around every event.
The best TOP brands have been telling a similar story for many editions of the Games. The consistency helps to protect that unique space they created and cement in fans’ minds who they are, what they do and the story they tell us over and over again.
Don’t you expect to see the next iteration of P&G’s “Thank you Mom” in Paris?
They need partners that understand the Olympics.
Understanding the sports communications environment, creating compelling authentic stories, navigating relationships within the various global and regional Olympic organizations, planning the cadence of distribution, and crafting the overall brand presence in the paid and earned media is as important as the brand positioning or the sponsorship itself.
This is where Taylor can partner with you.
We are less than a year to go to Paris, but brands still have time to make the greatest Olympic Games in history a powerful tool to grow their businesses. If you think your sponsorship can work harder for your company, talk to Taylor. Taylor draws on deep and unprecedented sports and entertainment expertise having engaged in almost every Games leading up to and on the ground since 1984. We’ve partnered with some of the world’s leading brands including AT&T, Adidas, Kleenex, Bristol Meyers, Evian and TOP sponsor P&G activating award-winning campaigns. We understand what it takes to create memorable Olympic moments and welcome the opportunity to partner with you to shape what’s possible for your brand.