The Quest For (Marketing) Gold

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Advertising During the Olympics

The runs are complete; the routines turned in; and flags have been hoisted. The 2018 Olympic games have almost reached their closing ceremonies. While millions across the globe tuned in to cheer their countrymen on to victory, many brands seized this once-every-two-year opportunity to capitalize on national pride.

Through the exclusive broadcast rights, NBC is expected to bring in about $900 million in ad revenue. There’s an estimated 7,200 commercials set to air during the games – accounting for much of this.

Iconic brands McDonalds and Coca-Cola are among the advertisers who bought broadcast time, but they’re going above-and-beyond by becoming Official Sponsors of the games. This means they have the latitude to say “Olympics,” show the official logo and directly align themselves with the games in broadcast, in print and on social media.

However, it comes with the heavy price tag of between $100 Million to $200 Million depending on what’s included. Everything they want to do from an advertising perspective must be approved by the USOC, the Olympics’ governing body. It’s a small hurdle to clear for the huge advantage the Official Sponsorship designation brings.

Brands looking to take advantage of the games’ immense draw outside of an Official Sponsor designation have a few hurdles to clear. Rule 40 from the Olympic Charter is designed to prevent brands from artificially leeching onto the games without the USOC’s approval. It’s backed by US Trademark law, meaning violations are legally enforceable and could be costly.

Obvious terms such as Olympics and Olympic Games are off-limits to non-Official Sponsors and, depending on context, even words like victory, medal, gold, bronze, silver and more are also barred. Individual athlete sponsorships are okay as long as they don’t mention the Olympics specifically.

Brands can thank Nike for the tight rules the USOC rigorously enforces through Rule 40. Their “Golden Opportunity” during the 1996 Atlanta Games – where Michael Johnson and his gold Nike cleats sprinted into history without being an Official sponsor, much to the chagrin of Reebok – was the tipping point.

Every two years, the world becomes captivated with the thrills and heartbreak of the athletes representing their respective nations. Capturing a piece of this excitement and attention can pay dividends to brands, but they have to be careful and play according to the USOC’s rules if they choose not to sponsor the games.

But according to our research is clear, The Official Sponsor designation gives a clean (but costly) leg up on other advertisers.

If your looking to create new and exciting ways to connect with your audience, call us we’d be glad to show you how, contact Donovan connective marketing at: 717.560.1333 or

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