The most anticipated event of the summer is well underway in Rio with people from all over the world tuning in and cheering on their country. For advertisers, the Olympic Games are a great opportunity to advertise on a large stage, however, you might want to double check what you say.
AdWeek brings to light the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games when Nike dipped their toe in some risky marketing strategies. At the time, Nike was not an official Olympic sponsor. So what do they do? Give Michael Johnson, a track and field superstar, shiny gold $30,000 racing spikes. Johnson ironically won the gold medal for the USA in the 400-meter dash stunning America with his gold medal and gold feet.
Not only did Nike sneakily advertise on Johnson’s feet, but they also (not so sneakily) built “Nike Centre” right next to the athletes’ village. On top of that, they handed out flags to visitors that had a huge swoosh on them.
But I’m not done… Nike made sure to load up on billboard advertising for the big event as well, flooding Atlanta with messages like, “You don’t win silver, you lose gold”. As well as magazine ads that read, “If you’re not here to win, you’re a tourist”. Ouch, Nike.
Clearly, these tactics didn’t settle well with competitors who were official Olympic sponsors, like Reebok; or the International Olympic Committee (IOC). However, what was done was done, and couldn’t be reversed. Instead, the IOC and USOC (United States Olympic Committee) did what they saw fit and tightened up their rules.
Today, brands who are not official Olympic sponsors are not allowed to use words/phrases on social media like: Olympic, Olympian, Team USA, Future Olympian, Gateway to gold, Go for the gold, Let the games begin, Paralympic, Pan Am Games, Olympiad, Paralympiad, Pan-America; and that’s just the beginning. Many brands are choosing the safer route and avoiding simple words like “summer” and “gold medal”. AdWeek lays out a clear list of do’s and don’ts here.
Bottom line: cheer for the Red White and Blue, but be careful with what you type in that 140 character tweet.