Given the time difference and the prevalence now of social media as a news source, I think Rio 2016 presents sponsors with a fantastic opportunity to reach fans via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. With many people reaching for their smartphone as soon as they wake up, the clever sponsors can become content providers, giving fans access to up to date news, stories and features embedded within their brand messages via social media. Rather than being seen as an interruption, the sponsors can then become part of how fans consume the Games, adding value to their Olympic and Paralympic experience.
With the sponsors’ campaigns beginning to air, there is now also the potential for non-sponsors to try and tap into some of the Olympic spirit, by engaging in ambush marketing. There has been quite a lot of talk recently about the strict regulations put in place by the International Olympic Committee surrounding what words and images can and cannot be used by non-sponsor brands in the run up to and during the Games. The controversial Rule 40 has been relaxed somewhat for Rio 2016, meaning that athletes can appear in promotional campaigns for their personal sponsors during the Games, providing they get permission to do so. While they are intended to prevent brands from getting the benefits associated with Olympic sponsorship without paying for that privilege, these rules often generate negative publicity as athletes feel they are being unnecessarily restricted from endorsing the brands which have supported them in their journey to the Games. I’m certainly not advocating a total lack of anti-ambush legislation, but I do feel that if the official sponsors are activating their sponsorships to their full potential then they have a lot less to fear from potential ambushers who are trying to “get in on the action.” Ambush marketing campaigns for previous mega sports events have been among some of the most creative marketing campaigns we’ve seen and if these actions prompt official sponsors to raise their game and deliver truly memorable Olympic-themed campaigns then I think it is all the better. The best campaigns, either sponsor- or ambusher-led tend to stem from genuine, real-time reaction and engagement with what is happening at the time (e.g. Oreo’s reaction to the Super Bowl blackout in 2013). The Olympic Games usually throw up a host of fantastic stories, from world records to courageous efforts and triumphs over adversity. Therefore, I look forward to seeing what the Games have to offer and how the sponsors (or ambushers) work with these to create truly memorable marketing content.