Brands Falling at the Starting Blocks


As we head into the final stretch of the Rio 2016 Olympics and with most sponsors of the event and the individual teams having activated a variety of content and campaigns to support their sponsorships, it’s clear that much like the event itself, brands are struggling to win in the communications battle to be the Olympic brand winner.

Many brands are clearly struggling to drive the levels of engagement seen at most other sporting events or even the London 2012 Olympics. Amidst stories that most Olympic venues are struggling to fill seats and are running at only 30% capacity does this mean that a lack of momentum around the event is impacting the level of momentum on social media?

Here are four trends we’re seeing that we believe are impacting how well the brand sponsors can generate the levels of buzz and excitement needed to make the games a brand communications success.


Stories need to have a natural flow and a reason for existing

This is something that P&G has struggled with over the last week. Despite seeing some criticism for its rehash of the Thank You Mum campaign, these stories of mums being a core force behind each athlete’s performance had a story arch that fitted well with the overall Olympics narrative. However this week has seen brand chatter generating from outreach to US bloggers as part of its #LetsPowerTheirDream campaign, which in turn has seen a wealth of sponsored posts from influencers asking readers to support the Olympic teams by buying P&G products. This comes across as absolutely forced and negatively impacted the brands scores.

Brands also need to consider the agility and longevity of their messages. Visa’s support for refugees at the beginning of the campaign was inspiring, but what plan have they put in place if the refugee athletes don’t perform? In social media a week is much longer than it seems, so brands should have back up plans for when content and ideas start running thin. Consistency and fairness is something fans are conscious of too. Singapore Airlines faced an unfortunate week in the sense that their celebrations of Singapore's first gold (Joseph Schooling) has seen them face criticism for giving certain Singaporean athletes preference over others (who haven't done so well).


Live in the now but in your own unique way

Both Toyota and Visa shifted to a strategy of real time updates but missed out on originality and standout in the process. Whilst it is great that both brands are getting content out quickly but they are wrapping the engagement in extremely dull content and posts that brings neither brands' campaigns and supporting hashtags to life. If you are going to celebrate an athlete find a way to make sure it comes to life vs. simply posting congratulations! This is where brands such as Ralph Lauren and Sport and Rec are falling short, as a mere: well done, doesn’t do much for brand affirmation – it feels like the safe way to do it.

A standout brand for recognising athletes in unique way is Adidas UK, for their #Futurecraft 3D printed shoe range, which they’ll be rewarding medal winning Adidas sponsored athletes. Aldi’s #HomeGrownHeroes campaign is lending itself well to their message of: quality athletes need quality and wholesome food to perform. Under Armor’s #RuleYourself hashtag is another example of a brand embracing uniqueness when congratulating fans.


Turn to the fans

One thing we learnt from brands' successes at the Euros was their ability to leverage fans love and passion for sport to aid their own narrative, but to also help position the brand as a facilitator. Maybe this is the result of strict IOC rules all brands need to adhere to, but we are seeing very little engagement around user generated content, and yet it is these human stories that regularly drive higher engagement.

Over the past week (and due to all the recent Great Britain wins) DFS received a fair amount of attention following their #GreatBrits campaign, which highlights the workmanship an athlete needs to be at the top of their game (subtle hint to the workmanship required for their furniture). Their hashtag is being used in many fan owned celebratory social posts, where their hashtag appears to be uniting people across the nation. Herbalife’s #IamIndia hashtag is achieving similar sentiment for India.


Be prepared to switch things up

One of the keys to Samsung’s success is the variety of content it prepared in advance of the event. From its viral video to its spots with Jack Whitehall, to a wealth of hashtags, Samsung seems to have something for everyone and as a result can jump on paternity opportunities with a piece of smart, well thought through content. No other brand seems to be able to outshine Samsung at this point, but Adidas, Aldi and Nike will be the ones to watch as the event draws to an end.