Going for gold: how marketers jump on the bandwagon of popular sporting events

The growing popularity of sporting events in recent years has been a lucrative advertising foothold for big budget brands looking to spend money promoting themselves to a well-primed audience. Even more so, successful advertising campaigns are often boosted by the interaction of the public on social media platforms such as Twitter, which enable brands to leverage further activity and publicity through the use of catchy, shareable hashtags, memorable slogans and memes.

For labels such as Nike and Adidas, building recognition around sporting events is not a difficult task as there is a strong link between them and sport. However, for unassociated brands such as confectionary or fast-food outlets, gaining traction when the world’s focus has turned to Olympians is much more difficult.

Unhealthy foods and athletes? They don’t normally mix. But where big budgets are available, such as with US brand Hershey’s, getting around this juxtaposition is possible. By creating its #HelloFromHome advertisement — a clever tug on consumers’ heart strings — Hershey’s reminded viewers of the home comforts sacrificed by athletes when training for big sporting events. Associating ‘home comforts’ with chocolate was an emotive use of brand advertising and proved hugely successful with the target audience.

Other examples of where big budgets have been spent include the following consumer brands who directly used athletes in their marketing: Mo “Quorn” Farah, Jess “Santander” Ennis-Hill, and who could forget the fastest man himself, Usain “Virgin Media” Bolt. And finally, the biggest game players in the industry such as McDonald’s, strike those all-important sponsorship deals which guarantee them vast coverage across a series of advertising channels such as billboards, television, radio and endorsements.

But it’s not just the brands with gigantic wallets that can score coverage. Any communications agency worth its weight in gold knows there is a much more cost-effective alternative to budget-busting marketing campaigns. Using a well-honed set of PR skills, we are able to provide a valuable service to clients by tapping into cultural and sporting events with strategies such as stunts and social media engagement, riding the wave of an already-engaged audience. The term ‘issues jump’ — commonly used by PR agencies — is a popular, yet more subtle and effective method for PRs to gain coverage and make a big splash for their clients without spending big bucks on advertisement campaigns or sponsorship deals.

For example, with Babel’s clients, we look for opportunities to gain visibility and rise above the noise of the games by tapping into the wealth of data they have. This data could show anything from patterns in data roaming traffic in Brazil for the durational of the games, or even something like the most popular social media platform used to immortalise and discuss certain historic moments. The ability to provide unique insights to journalists writing about the Olympics is not only useful to the journalists who want to write something more meaningful than an article on Olympic fashion trends, but also an impactful way for clients to demonstrate their knowledge on key issues.

There is often plenty of preparation to be done ahead of sporting and cultural events, but when the time comes and the games have commenced, the competition is on to make the biggest possible impact alongside all the other companies looking to score similar coverage and exposure to the fans. The shrewdest communications professionals will roll-out their selection of tried-and-tested manoeuvres when the right opportunity strikes — and on top of that, it makes a jolly good justification to bosses to be allowed to catch up on the these events throughout the working day!