The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 5: My Ten Creative Picks

Every Olympics is always a global festival of creativity, inspiring an incredible array of work from around the world. Sochi has continued this trend, from brands inside and outside the Olympic Movement and – enabled increasingly by social media – from fans. To round off this series of posts, I’m going to celebrate this creativity with an unashamedly personal selection of ten brilliant, Sochi-inspired works. So here goes, in no particular order.

Guinness – ‘Twins’

It’s very, very rare for a brand to evoke the absolute essence of the Olympic spirit. Simple, powerful, breathtaking.

Nike – Team Canada

Even if you don’t love Canada or hockey, you’ll love this.

Visa – ‘Every Four Years, Winter Nails It’

Many brands have used winter as a theme, but Visa – which has had a great Games, innovating creatively and strategically – gets a gold medal for this one.

Canadian Insititute of Diversity & Inclusion – ‘Luge’

Five million views in two weeks: ’nuff said.

Ria Novosti – Interactive Guide To Sochi 2014’s Sports

The screengrab below doesn’t even begin to do this justice. It’s brilliant and, I warn you, highly addictive. Check it out in all its interactive glory here.

Molson Passport-Activated Beer Fridge

Along with Megafon’s MegaFaces, the on-site brand activation of Sochi 2014.

New York Times – Sochi Luge Experience

This amazing film takes you a luge at top speed down the Sochi track. Don’t watch it just after you’ve eaten. But do watch it.

The Onion – Lolo Jones Becomes First American To Be Objectified In Both Winter and Summer Events

If you haven’t already, I urge you to read this piece by The Onion. Brilliantly funny and spot-on.

AFP Skeleton Helmets

Cool gear has been a thing at Sochi and I particularly loved this Fabrizio Bensch shot of Canada’s Sarah Reid.

NASA – Sochi from space

Although there has been some stunning photography coming out of Sochi, nothing beats this shot, taken from the International Space Station 200 miles above the Olympic Park. Wow.

The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 4: The #Sochialympics

Back in February 2012 when Synergy coined the term #Socialympics (which subsequently went viral and was even adopted by the IOC), it was clear that the mass-adoption of social media was going to have a profound effect on London 2012. So it proved, as we discussed at our two #Socialympics panel events either side of the 2012 Games. Two years on, the effect has been no less profound on Sochi 2014, so here's my take on some of the key moments and learnings of the #Sochialympics.

Social Ambush

As I wrote on Monday in the first of this series of posts, social media has replaced the international leg of the Torch Relay as the lightning rod for Olympic protest. For Olympic sponsors in particular, the hijacking of the McDonalds #cheerstosochi campaign should now be a key case study. (On which point, why is McDonald's still displaying the fact that the campaign has only attracted a few thousand cheers?)

The #Sochialympics also showed how effective social is for ambushers.

My ambush gold medal goes to Zippo: Sochi's first social ambush was also its best, a brilliant piece of reactive marketing and savvy "Who me?" PR.

ZippoFB

Zippofollowup

Silver goes to USOC sponsor JCPenney's #tweetingwithmittens, for ambushing the Super Bowl with the Olympics.

JCPenney

And bronze goes to Crowdtilt for showcasing their platform to send the Jamaican bobsledders to Sochi and leverage probably the biggest feelgood story of the Sochi Games.

Crowdtilt

 

#SochiSelfies and #SochiProblems    

The #SelfieOlympics was the first big web meme of the year, as I wrote in January along with a few suggestions as to what the IOC and the Olympic Movement could learn from it.

As tens of thousands of these shots were taken in bathrooms, it was pleasingly symmetrical as well as hugely entertaining that the first big #Sochialympics meme was #sochiproblems, driven by journalists' pictures of their Sochi hotel experiences. This was then seized on by a 20 year old Canadian journalism major, whose savvy curation won his @SochiProblems Twitter handle over 330,000 followers - 60,000 more than @Sochi2014. A parable of our times.

But in the photos-in-bathroom stakes, no question that the big winner was US bobsledder Johnny Quinn, with this picture, which went viral, generated a blitz of media stories and has made him a household name in the US. 

Quinn

And to bring us full circle in this particular loop, selfies have been a big thing at Sochi, with athletes - perhaps influenced by the #SelfieOlympics? - spontaneously adopting the #SochieSelfies hashtag, and many NOCs creating their own versions to drive engagement.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

With Facebook focused on its NBC tie-up, Twitter has pushed out a lot of Olympic-related content during the Games to drive attention and conversation, including collages of the most-shared photos, heatmaps of which countries are mentioning the Olympics most (I included one in my post on Monday), and infographics about medal-winning athletes' follower growth, such as this one for GB's Lizzie Yarnold:

TwitterYarnold

In contrast to one-dimensional TV viewing figures, it's revealed fascinating insights into local and global consumer behaviour and engagement with the Games.

The IOC has predictably reported big growth in social numbers. With an Olympic TV channel very much on the agenda - for the periods between Games - nurturing this community becomes ever more important for IOC.

Sochi 2014 CEO Dmitry Cheryshenko (@DChernyshenko) has shown top Olympic officials - and sporting officialdom generally - how to use social for the job while staying real. Same goes for Ricardo Fort of Visa (@SportByFort) when it comes to sponsors.

Under Ricardo, Visa has put much more into social in Sochi than it did in London and has got a big uplift in interactivity.

Sochi has also seen a growing contrast between 'tweets for hire' athletes intent on growing their followers and happy for their streams to be scripted by sponsors, versus 'the naturals', such as Iouri Podladtchikov - aka 'I-Pod' - the halfpiper who dethroned Shaun White and said:

"I really don't care if it's 10,000 followers or 100,000. I just want it to be me ... even if it's not selling."      

At the other end of the scale is Maria Sharapova who, not content with her NBC and Torch-bearing duties and contractual appearances for long-term sponsors Nike and Samsung in Sochi, also cut a one-off deal for a series of posts for McDonald's from the Games.

But this hasn't been the #Sochialympics.

It's been the #Tinderlympics.

Or maybe the #Grindrlympics.

The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 3: X Games

Although it's often uncomfortable territory for sporting officialdom, the ability to nurture and evolve multiple brands has to be in their toolkit. English football has the Premier League / England team / FA Cup conundrum: cricket has the Test, One Day and Twenty20 formats; rugby fifteen-a-side and sevens; tennis singles, doubles and team. And so on.

When the Olympic brand is discussed, it's often overlooked that it's delivered to the world every other year via two very distinct events, two very different brands - Winter and Summer.

Yes, they operate under the same 'highest common denominator' Olympic brand values and a similar event template, but as events and brands they are very different: different sports, different feel, different appeal.

With nation branding - or re-branding - being fundamental to modern Olympic hosting, for the Putin administration Sochi has always been designed to showcase a new Russia to the world.

But from the IOC's point of view, what it has been about in particular is to drive up the Games' appeal to the youth market, by adding new, 'cooler' events with The X Games in their DNA - a process which, as The Economist recently pointed out, has been gathering in momentum since the addition of snowboarding in 1998.

It's too early to judge to what extent the IOC has been successful, and too simplistic to say that youth marketing is all about adding cool new sports to the Winter and Summer Games (or for that matter to the struggling Youth Olympics). But as Ashling O'Connor wrote in a very good piece in The Independent last week, this could be a seminal moment for the IOC:It has not escaped the attention of the IOC marketing department that there is a huge crossover between those who play video games and those who watch the X Games. Certainly, both wear their trousers a lot lower than they do in Lausanne. Slopestyle skiing/snowboarding and the half-pipe events, of which the ski version was also included for the first time in Sochi, are the bridge. A new generation must fall in love with the Olympics if the movement is to survive. Adapt or die. The IOC knows this full well.

IOC Sports Director Christopher Dubi had this to say on the same theme in an interview with Tripp Mickle in SportsBusiness Daily yesterday which mooted adding skateboarding and BMX halfpipe and park to Tokyo 2020:

“We should not move away from those sports that appear to be more traditional...You need probably a blend of urban-extreme sport and at the same time making sure that we have the ground covered with all the (traditional) others” Dubi said, adding slopestyle and freeskiing had been a huge benefit to the program in Sochi. Dubi said internet consumption globally was up 300 percent for the Sochi Games and viewership for slopestyle had been “tremendous...What I find interesting is it’s strong on TV, which is a good thing because it’s (where) our traditional viewers (are), but it’s also good on the internet, which is the younger generation, and these age groups have a big pickup."
All eyes then on the IOC session in Monaco in December which will debate which sports should be added to Tokyo, and on the next chapter in new IOC President Bach's reformist Agenda 2020, which features the Olympic programme and new approaches to Olympic audiences as key pillars.
.......................
The is the third of a 5-part series this week looking at Sochi 2014's key marketing trends. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 2: Brand Activation Highlights

Having written yesterday about the LBGT controversy and the latest developments in IOC sponsorship, today I'm turning to the key brand activation strategies and stories around the Sochi Games.

Play Russian

Unlike a summer Olympics or a FIFA World Cup, the Winter Olympics doesn't bring with it a big, global Nike campaign. Sochi 2014 is lower-priority and lower-spend than the World Cup for Nike, because in terms of worldwide interest, the winter Olympics is nowhere near as big as a World Cup, as illustrated by this Twitter heatmap.


  

Nike's Sochi playbook has strong echoes of Vancouver 2010: focus on the host market; fusion of Nike attitude with national identity; hockey at its core (Nike sponsors the Russian, US and Canadian hockey teams). 'Play Russian' features Nike's key Russian endorsees across a range of sports, led by Russian hockey icon and Games poster boy Alex Ovechkin, as well as a very cool website.
Of the other sportswear brands, the Jamaican bobsled team qualifying for Sochi was good news for Jamaican NOC sponsors Puma, but even better for adidas, when adidas-branded pictures of the Cool Runnings movie instantly flooded the web; and Under Armour has had a Games to forget, first owing to the withdrawal of Lindsey Vonn, and then by making a ton of the wrong kind of headlines about the performance of its speed skating suits.

No Logo?

The IOC famously prides itself on making the Olympics as advertising-free as possible, but the snowboarders' gear in Sochi has been branded like no Olympics before, with the brands involved pushing the IOC's regulations to the limit. This drew this observation at the start of the Games from our head of consulting Carsten Thode:

Carsten Sochi

Subsequently brandchannel followed up on the same subject with this very good piece: expect to see this particular loophole narrowed, if not closed, by the time we get to Pyeongchang 2018.

There was also the curious case of Alexey Sobolev, aka the Pussy Riot board artwork that wasn't, and the cellphone number that was. Or something like that.

And while we're on the subject, check out this very cool interactive guide to the gear of the Games by the NYT.    

The Return of the Brand Police

Games officials doing daft things as 'brand police' - supposedly to protect the Games' sponsors, but actually doing the absolute reverse by creating negative stories - is a thing again in Sochi.

In London in was LOCOG's mishandling of local butchers and bakers, and Seb Coe's infamous 'Pepsi t-shirts' Today programme interview. In Sochi it's officials covering up journalists' laptop logos.

Plaschke

 

Coverup

Sochi USA

What happens in the USA - the biggest and most valuable Olympic TV market - around every Games is always worth watching.

This time around of course, Sochi followed hot on the heels of the Super Bowl, and Bloomberg took this fascinating look at the two events as TV properties and the numbers behind NBC's deal with the IOC, estimating that NBC will make a profit of around $100m from Sochi on revenue of $1billion, from the sale of 11,000 - yes, you read that right, eleven thousand - ads.

No surprise then that NBC put a lot of effort into marketing the Games upfront to the US consumer as well as to Madison Avenue (note the prominence of Lindsey Vonn by the way).

The sales pitch to IOC and USOC partners worked. As SportsBusiness Journal reports, fifteen Olympic sponsors are running ads on NBC during the Games, almost all of them featuring new, specially-developed creative.

But the jury is out on NBC's ratings, even though the overall numbers are pretty impressive.

NBC

Breaking New Ground

A few sponsors' campaigns - or elements of them - that have caught my eye in the last few weeks.

Albeit I may be biased (Synergy works for BMW in the UK) but for me the BMW campaign has really stood out from the other USOC sponsors for its depth, ambition and integration, as well as for telling and leveraging the bobsled story very skilfully. 

P&G has evolved its successful 'Thank You Mom' campaign, which debuted at Vancouver 2010, into Sochi, and in the week before the Games I enjoyed how P&G fused branded programming on NBC (a show called 'How To Raise An Olympian') with social content - check out my Storify. But - albeit it's still generating very high engagement - how long can P&G keep 'Thank You Mom' going? One more Games? Two?

I've also really enjoyed a lot of Visa's work. 'Everywhere' feels very natural in an Olympic context, some of the creative has been absolutely sensational, and the use of Vine has been original and fun. Here's another Storify of some of the work.

I wrote a few weeks back how much I liked MegaFon's MegaFaces, the success of which is evident from how many consumer pictures of the activation are now out there.

But my favourite on-site activation at Sochi is definitely Molson's passport-activated beer fridge.

Brilliant.

The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 1: The (One) Issue Games

...Beijing, Vancouver, London, Sochi. Every Olympics Games evolves the Olympic brand, and evolves Olympic Marketing. With Sochi 2014 now into its second week, every day this week I'll be taking a look at the key marketing issues, campaigns and stories of the latest edition of the Marketing Olympics, kicking off today with the LBGT controversy and the latest developments in IOC sponsorship.

The (One) Issue Games 

The run-up to every Olympics is always full of negative headlines and controversy, and Sochi was no exception, but with one issue absolutely dominant: the global protests against Russia's anti-gay legislation, led by POTUS's decision back in December to stay away from Sochi and to nominate Billie-Jean King in the US delegation, rising to a crescendo of campaigns and stories in the final weeks pre-Games.

Inevitably, these saw Games sponsors targeted both by campaigners and the media, in particular McDonalds, whose global #CheersToSochi campaign was hijacked so powerfully on social media that McDonalds has effectively withdrawn it, now barely referencing it in its comms, with the campaign website registering only a few thousand cheers - not exactly what McDonalds would have had in mind.

Cheers To Sochi website

Re-wind to Beijing 2008, the last 'issue' Games, when global protests about China's human rights record targeted the international sections of Olympic Torch Relay, prompting the IOC to limit the Torch Relay to host countries only.But who needs Torch Relay demos when you now have globally-distributed social media?And why has the IOC done so little to publicly engage with the issue? President Bach's Opening Ceremony speech was to be applauded, but was too little, too late.

Problem not solved.

And protests not going away.

The ethics of how Mega Events are awarded, where they are staged, and what they are for, is not going away for the IOC or FIFA. Next after the Sochi Olympics comes the 2014 FIFA World Cup, already highly controversial in Brazil and sure to see more of the protests which marked last year's Confederations Cup and saw FIFA sponsors' and other brands' campaigns hijacked. Following which we have Rio 2016 and Russia 2018, with Qatar 2022 - already the most controversial World Cup of all time - ever-present in the background.

What Sochi 2014 has again proved, if further proof were needed, is that the IOC must radically overhaul its approach to protest and how it handles controversy, if it is to safeguard and evolve the Olympic brand and create a positive environment for its sponsors and NOC sponsors worldwide. Not to mention justify an increased price tag for TOP deals, of which more below.

Meanwhile, not much doubt that the LBGT protests have produced the ad of the Games, Luge. When I first spotted and tweeted it a couple of weeks back it had only 4,000 views on YouTube: now, that's grown to over 5 million and quite right too. Sensational.

2024 At The Double

The IOC has announced two extensions to TOP deals during Sochi: Atos, to 2020, and Panasonic, in a move which took everybody by surprise, to 2024.

Patrick Nally hit the nail on the head.

Nally

Panasonic was widely expected to extend, particularly after Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Games, but only to 2020, in line with the other global Olympic sponsors, and to allow for a much-mooted IOC review of the TOP programme post-Sochi.Where the Panasonic extension leaves all that is now the big issue in Olympic sponsorship, particularly as it is also now being reported by SportsBusiness Journal (SBJ) that the contract is worth $350m-$400m, thereby doubling TOP prices in the most recent deal cycle.

SBJ has underlined its position as the must-read for anyone in the business with some great reporting from Sochi by Tripp Mickle on IOC sponsorship issues. Both these are worth a read: outgoing chair of the IOC Marketing Commission Gerhard Heiberg interviewed - interestingly, he calls out Samsung as the deal which has added the most value to a TOP sponsor; and the IOC has stopped the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee from projecting sponsors' logos on the outside of some of the Sochi arenas in view of TV broadcasters' cameras.

Tripp also had some nice takes on Twitter on new IOC President Thomas Bach's appearances at sponsors' showcases in Sochi:

Tripp Bach Sochi tweets

The days of Jacques Rogge are well and truly over.