Olympics Advertisers Are Wasting Their Sponsorship Dollars

Olympics Advertisers Are Wasting Their Sponsorship Dollars

US brand-building expert Denise Lee Yohn argues, in an opinion piece from Forbes.com, that many brands hitch their wagon to the olympic Games but few get it right…

When the 2016 Olympics kick off on Friday, many advertisers will be crossing their fingers that their Olympics sponsorship will pay off. Their hopes will be misplaced if they haven’t executed on their sponsorship with the right advertising.

Companies can sign up for different levels of sponsorship, ranging from Worldwide Olympic Partner to Official Supplier. Each comes with different terms dictating how Olympics-related logos, names, images, etc. can be used in advertising, on uniforms, in apps, and now even in Tweets. The Olympic Partners (TOP) program, the highest level of Olympic sponsorship, can cost over $200 million these days. Spending that kind of money, advertisers are right to expect a return. But results show that hefty sponsorship dollars don’t automatically translate to a successful campaign.

A comparison of Adidas’s and Nike’s campaigns for the 2012 London Olympics illustrates this point. Adidas spent $127 million to $156 million to be the “Official Sportswear Partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games and the London 2012 Paralympic Games.” Nike paid considerably less for a “tier-three” sponsorship which allowed it to outfit most Brazilian national teams for the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games. Yet, in a move that some label as ambush marketing, Nike shot commercials in places around the world named London and timed the campaign launch to coincide with the Games opening ceremony.

Adidas’s “Take the Stage” commercials showed top British athletes in short clips with a voice-over that emphasized the mental challenges of competing at the highest level on the global stage that is the Olympics. Nike’s campaign, “Find Your Greatness,” featured everyday people striving to excel, including a chubby teenager slogging out a jog on a long, empty road, struggling but persevering.

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