Not all Olympic medals are won by athletes. Sponsors and advertisers also are competing at the top of their game.
Which marketers will walk away victorious? Is it those that are driving sales, inspiring retail engagement, or elevating their brand awareness?
Well, one thing is perfectly clear after the first week of Olympic competition — athlete endorsements are seen as critical to break through the clutter.
Relaxed USOC rules now make it easier to promote endorsements. Starting this year, non-U.S Team sponsors can run ads featuring Olympic athletes during the Games. So with Olympic TV ad revenue expected to exceed $1.2 billion, these endorsements are impossible to miss.
Endorsements can be risky investments. Even decorated athletes can fall short of Olympic medal ambitions (google “Reebok Dan and Dave” for that case study). But Procter & Gamble sure was ready Sunday night when one of its endorsers, Dana Vollmer, was swimming in the finals of the 100 butterfly. Vollmer gave birth to her son Arlen in March 2015, and refers to herself as “Momma on a Mission.”
Mission accomplished. Vollmer won a bronze medal, and NBC later transitioned into a P&G “Thank You, Mom” vignette-featuring Olympic moms. Perfect timing.
Nowhere is the endorsement game more pronounced than in the athletic footwear category.
Nike, USOC sponsor and outfitter of all U.S. athletes during the Games, has endorsements with a bevy of stars including track and field’s Allyson Felix and Ashton Eaton. New Balance grabbed Nike defector Boris Berian, in an alleged contract violation that made headlines. Under Armour has Michael Phelps, the most heralded Olympian of all-time. Asics signed volleyball great Kerri Walsh Jennings. Even Skechers is in the game, with Golden Oldies – former Olympic greats Meb Keflezighi and Kara Goucher.
And that’s only one product category.
At Zimmerman, we took a decidedly different sponsorship approach for client Nissan. Nissan already partners with 100 U.S. colleges and universities who currently educate and train the majority of the 500+ U.S. Olympians competing in Rio.
In total, there are 352 U.S. athletes affiliated with Nissan- sponsored schools competing in Rio.
So rather than layer on an Olympic-related sponsorship or additional endorsements, Nissan instead will champion its consistent yearlong message of standing behind collegiate athletics.
Nissan partnered with NBC to create an integrated program spotlighting how collegiate competition brings out the best in U.S. Olympic athletes. The athletes themselves deliver the message. It’s their real-life road to the Olympics. The ultimate statement.
Throughout the Games, you’ll see Nissan vignettes and promos highlighting the important role collegiate competition played in preparing these great athletes.
The website Rivals In Rio (http://www.rivalsinrio.com), presented by Nissan, takes it further, promoting the college rivalries that have infused daily Olympic showdowns.
By championing the authentic journey of so many athletes, medals become icing on the cake. It’s a marketing strategy that Nissan expects to earn gold…and green.
Kudos to Nissan and its Omnicom agencies — Zimmerman, OMD, and all other Nissan agency partners for infusing a collegiate sponsorship with a dose of Olympic ambition.