Marketing the last Olympics

I’m not a sports fan. Not at all. So I have to watch that I’m not too sceptical or even cynical about the Olympics. It helps to remind myself that I much prefer countries competing through track events than in war events.

I am, however, a strong fan of digital marketing and the rules and regulations around marketing in the Olympics have troubled me. They seem impossible to enforce, hard to follow despite making every effort to do so and fail to understand that in this Age of Influencers the general public are also digital marketers.

The promise, the silver lining, had always been the predicted boom to traditional advertising that the Olympics would bring. Lots of focus on London, lots of people engaged and excited, lots of reasons for brands to be upbeat and out there. Yeah?

No. Today, writing for Media Week, Maisie McCabe has a story that suggests the Olympics has scared off TV advertisers (gated).

Media agencies are predicting that TV ad revenue could be down as much as 10% between July and August compared to last year. An unnamed source said;

”Q3 looks a little wobbly at the moment with both July and August lower than expected. However, they’re both relatively small months in comparison to September.

"I think [September] will really give the best indication of whether the market will hold up through Q4 or whether we’re in for a prolonged drop in revenues."

Another source, this time a TV buyer said;

"I think advertisers have been scared off by the Olympics. The expected drop in commercial impacts is probably scaring them off with the expected price rises in the offing."

In short, it sounds like it is very difficult to advertise in the Olympics. Traditional advertising seems expensive and digital rules are woolly at best.

With the current state of regulation in the UK today it will be impossible for brands to ever mention the London 2012 games unless they’re a sponsor. Even then, it’s not clear whether a brand who was a sponsor in 2012 but isn’t a sponsor for Rio de Janeiro 2016 can make mention of past events come 2016.

It seems likely that countries and the Olympic bigwigs will have to recognise that adverts are no longer transitory. Today, thanks to the internet, they live forever. This makes some form of sponsorship and sponsorship restrictions tricky.

The Olympic bigwigs certainly have to recognise that the public will take photographs and engage in geo-stamped social networking. These photographs will show non-sponsored brands in Olympic context and some will be popular. The combined audience of this level of UGC will out reach anyone Olympic ad.

In fact, I strongly wonder whether 2012 will be the last Olympics to have a go at enforcing the old style of rules. It seems that the 2016 organisation will have to rethink and find a new way to balance the benefits of being a sponsor with the reality of the digital age.

I think a balance is possible.

One area to look at is whether there needs to be a digital infrastructure around the Olympics. Host countries invest hugely in the physical side; with trains, tracks, hotels and all sorts of practise centres. Should there also be digital landscape investments too? Should there be an official site for uploading your Olympic photos? What would such a site have to do to add value to the community? It’s an interesting debate.

What do you think?

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