The Olympic Games are about talent, effort, glory, pain, heart, guts, achievement and inspiration.
The answer, obviously, is both. Unlike Hollywood’s imagined high school cafeteria, with its clearly marked boundaries separating brawny jocks and brainy nerds, Olympic-style success depends on an intense intermingling of these two groups. Athletes and their trainers rely on the work of materials scientists, chemical engineers, physicists, nutritionists and many others in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to reach their peak performances.
This creates branding opportunities for companies involved in the Olympics with STEM as a core focus or a prominent business theme, in particular, because their science and technology are integral to the success of the athletes and the Games. The Olympics could succeed and the athletes could perform at their best without sugary soft drinks, for example – but not without world-class IT, high-tech apparel and equipment, or a large and efficient physical infrastructure.
The approaches companies take to Olympic campaigns are as varied as the events and teams themselves. A company that undertakes a global four-year sponsorship – the cost now estimated at about $200 million – needs to consider all possible ways of leveraging its investment to multiple audiences: consumers, B2B, key influencers, employees and potential employees. But there are also effective campaigns, some of them more narrowly targeted, at more modest levels of spending.
Although it functions mostly unseen, digital technology is critical to the success, safety and viewing of the Olympics. Atos (formerly Siemens Business Services) has provided IT support for the Olympics since 1992 as a worldwide sponsor. This year the company is leading the digital transformation to the Cloud and building the backbone of the IT infrastructure. While its computing team has spent years building the infrastructure, the communications team has shaped a strong story detailing how integral computing technology is to the experience of the athletes, onsite spectators and viewers at home.
Atos has created its own “Stories of the Games” featuring the behind-the-scenes digital technology and clearly geared toward business customers. Focusing on how companies can define their own breakthrough moments, the site helps explain the technology, collaboration and innovation that make the Olympics possible, using traditional communication methods, infographics and video. Atos has the opportunity to use these materials in employee engagement programs and recruiting materials to help connect its workforce to the Olympic spirit and the company’s contributions. In June, the company was recognized as the 2016 Engagement Company of the Year.
Greek yogurt maker Chobani, a sponsor of Team USA, has launched an integrated Olympics campaign through media ranging from TV and digital to yogurt-cup lids. Its new tagline, “You Can Only Be Great If You’re Full of Goodness,” connects nutrition back to successful athletic performance. In contrast to Atos’ business-to-business approach, Chobani is laser-focused on the consumer and plans to run as many as 40 videos, from commercials to digital video profiles, workout routines and cooking segments, with the athletes it is sponsoring.
Yet, even the yogurt maker touches on the value of STEM-related support by highlighting the nutritional value of its products and its commitment to sustainable inputs. Videos show company dietitians helping athletes like American female boxer and bronze medalist Marlen Esparza appreciate the value of flavor and function – in a yogurt-based Alfredo sauce – as she discusses the emphasis on weight control in her sport.
While not an official sponsor of the Olympic Games, Under Armour will be highly visible. The International Olympic Committee has relaxed the rules (Rule 40) on how athletes engage with non-sponsoring brands, and Under Armour will have more than 250 athletes sporting its logo for training or competition during the Games. None is more recognizable or more strongly associated with the Olympics than swimmer and 22-time medalist Michael Phelps. Under Armour has already scored big with a 90-second ad titled “The Last Good-bye,” featuring Phelps training for his last Olympics — but with no trace of Olympic intellectual property. The video went viral when it launched in March and already has about six million views on YouTube.
A simultaneous Under Armour campaign showcases the “Lighthouse,” a new manufacturing and innovation center designed to create the athletic apparel of the future. The 35,000 square-foot center will combine top designers, engineers and other manufacturing experts in close collaboration. A two-minute video introducing the concept features a diverse group of employees and speaks to job creation both locally and globally as Lighthouse fuels future innovations.
One of twelve worldwide sponsors, The Dow Chemical Company is the Official Chemistry Company for the Olympics and leverages its sponsorship to highlight its commitment to sustainability. Dow signed on as the first partner of the “Embrace Sustainability” program and was appointed the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016. Its commitment focuses on reducing the environmental footprint of the Olympic Games, from soccer stadiums to gymnasium floors to the local infrastructure.
Internally, Dow uses the opportunity to engage employees in the success of the Olympics through nominations for torch relays and other internal campaigns. As a longtime partner, Dow sees the Olympics as a way to bring the Games to its global workforce, with nearly everyone having someone to cheer on. While chemistry may not be the first thing that comes to mind with the Olympics, it’s impossible to have the Games without it.
When we think about it, Olympic-related branding and communications have a lot in common with athletes’ training plans and performances. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. There’s a constant monitoring and fine-tuning of performance metrics along the way. Earning the right to stand above competitors takes hard work and discipline. And the next month will bring highs and lows, great successes and perhaps some painful failures. The proper planning and analysis, combined with strategy and creativity, can be the winning combination that catapults a brand to the top of the podium.