Big brands go digital to enhance sponsorship

16 February 2010

VANCOUVER: Major advertisers such as Coca-Cola, Visa and McDonald's are all using digital media to heighten the impact of their sponsorship of the Winter Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee trebled its sponsorship income to $866 million (€636m; £553m) between 1993 and 2008, but lost Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Manulife and Lenovo as partners after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

While the organisation generated $883m in revenues from its corporate allies for the period from 2009-12, this figure still fell below its original target of $1 billion overall.

The US Olympic Committee has also seen firms like Bank of America, General Motors and Home Depot opt against renewing sponsorship deals, a trend indicative of a broader malaise in the market.

IEG reported that spending through this channel fell by 0.6% in the US in 2009, to $16.5bn, but expects figures to rise by 3.4%, to $17.1bn, in 2010, fuelled by events like the Winter Olympics.

Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, is supporting its traditional media activities during the Games via a number of digital initiatives.

These include a blog based around the fictional "International Federation of Snowball Throwing", and an online game, based on a similar theme, that it is hoping netizens will spread virally.

Coke has also joined forces with NBC to offer an online video service and a mobile "app" that plays sounds associated with the Games, and which allows users to upload their own "cheers" in support of Team USA.

Elsewhere, platforms like MyCokeRewards and MyCoke will boast a mixture of targeted offers and original content, with a dedicated Facebook page providing access to a variety of further material.

"Every piece of our Olympic marketing has a social and mobile component," said Katie Bayne, chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola North America.

Visa, the credit and debit card provider, recently launched its Winter Olympic-themed "Go World" campaign in more than 20 markets across the globe.

In the US, it has a built a YouTube channel that shows its six TV spots linked to the Games, with consumers able to choose their favourite, and enter a competition to have their name feature on screen.

A section of Visa's own website also contains exclusive videos and photos from five athletes, as well as their music "playlists", which visitors can pay to download.

Digital will take 40% of the organisation's Olympics marketing budget, up from around 10% previously, supplementing its focus on in-store and retail communications.

"What you're seeing is the evolution of our marketing approach. We are approaching Vancouver much differently than we approached Beijing," said Antonio Lucio, Visa's chief marketing officer.

McDonald's, the fast-food chain, has created a new game on its website, called "How Do You McNugget?", challenging its audience to "guess how athletes and Olympians enjoy their McNuggets."

The winner of this contest will receive a trip to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, as part of what Heather Oldani, McDonald's director of US communications, described as an attempt to "leverage high-impact experiences."

Procter & Gamble, the world's biggest advertiser, has introduced its first ever "corporate image campaign" to coincide with the Winter Olympics, an approach which applies both on TV and the web., the main online component of this strategy, features pictures, videos and blogs from the mothers of competing athletes, and offers discount coupons for certain P&G brands.

Moreover, the microsite for Crest contains brand endorsements from spokesmen like snowboarder Seth Wescott on why they like to use P&G's oral care range.

"This is a world-class event and we want to do some world-class brand building," said Marc Pritchard, P&G's global brand-building officer.

General Electric is utilising the Games to drive what Linda Boff, its global director of marketing communications, called a "launch pad" for its most substantial social media push to date.

Alongside services like Facebook and YouTube, it will employ Twitter as a means of providing consumers with information from 25 experts about the things they can do to stay healthy.

Data sourced from USA Today, New York Times, Bloomberg,; additional content by Warc staff