Three ways brands are winning the Rio Olympics

As a creative, watching athletic battles play out on a global stage is only part of the Olympic fun—I also can’t resist cheering the creativity, agility, and guts on display as brands battle for the attention of millions of fans worldwide. The obvious winners may be the long-time sponsors that can authentically—and legally—integrate their brands with the Olympic spirit, but other, non-sponsor brands are also taking advantage of epic Olympic themes. So how are brands making an impact? Here are three ways brands are going for gold during the Olympics.

1. It’s not about the sports.

No one understands this better than the major official Olympic sponsors. Brands that focus on emotion elevate the Olympic spirit to epic proportions while convincing us all that the feeling is within reach.

Coke 2016 Olympic POV # That's Gold #

Coke’s #ThatsGold campaign focuses on the idea that everyday life is filled with golden moments. It expresses this through a 360-degree activation, including the Coca-Cola Olympic Station on-site in Rio, YouTube Olympics–themed content, and a 320-city Olympic Torch Relay.

P&G 'Thank You, Mom' Campaign Ad:

Procter & Gamble, meanwhile, highlights a stable full of brands that help support people in their everyday lives, tying into themes around the incredible support required for an athlete to arrive at the Olympics. This year’s #ThankYouMom campaign capitalized on these emotions with its tear-worthy ads for the third year running. 

2. Show, don’t tell.

There is no greater challenge to a creative mind than strictly imposed rules, and the United States Olympic Committee has created intellectual property rules as strict as they come. Yet those same rules can necessitate disruptive thinking that leads to brilliant solutions. While some brands have fought these rules with lawsuits, others have focused their time and energy on groundbreaking creative that won’t get them in trouble.

TEAM USA / GYMNASTICS - Under Armour - Rule Yourself

One non-sponsor that’s doing it right? Under Armour. Its Cannes-winning #RuleYourself campaign displays no Olympic intellectual property—not even a reference to the Olympic games themselves—but the linkage is implicit in its ads, one of which features Michael Phelps and his comeback story. By using evergreen story content that focuses on an individual athlete instead of the Olympic event, Under Armour stays relevant, and appropriately vague, while still being involved in the conversation about the Olympics.


3. Getting in without a ticket.

Brands that deliver immersive access to the games are also winning the Olympics. Google has focused on experience, going beyond merely connecting people with information by providing seamless access to individual athlete schedules, medal counts, and events through active updates in Google Search. Moreover, Google Trekker enables viewers to discover the rich culture of Rio itself, using newly rendered mappings of the area and virtual reality (VR) technology to create tours of famous landmarks and provide an immersive user experience.

Beyond the Map, Rio de Janeiro - Mapping the Favelas

NBC also partnered with Samsung during the Olympics to democratize the opening ceremony experience with immersive VR, allowing millions of people to feel like they were truly at the Olympics. Though in its early stages and somewhat fraught with delays and bugs, the partnership introduced what is sure to be the future of shared human experience on a global scale.


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