Practical Ecommerce

Using the Olympics for Ecommerce Marketing

Adeline Gray of the U.S. is a contender for an Olympic Gold Medal in Women's Wrestling at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Online retailers may be able to receive endorsements from Olympic athletes. <em>Photo by Tabercil, Creative Commons License.</em>

Adeline Gray of the U.S. is a contender for an Olympic Gold Medal in Women’s Wrestling at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Online retailers may be able to receive endorsements from Olympic athletes. Photo by Tabercil, Creative Commons License.

Note: Since I wrote this article, the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee have attempted to restrict all use of Olympic words, phrases, and emblems on social media and, possibly, in content. Given this change, I no longer recommend using the Olympics in your content marketing.

The Olympics are inspiring. During the games, consumers worldwide will watch some of this generation’s greatest athletes compete in events ranging from swimming and hurdling to Taekwondo and table tennis. Media consumption, television viewing habits, and even shopping behavior will change.

These changes to what your customers and potential customers do or think could impact your business. So, with the Games of the XXXI Olympiad (Rio 2016) starting soon, consider investing some of your time and marketing efforts around the event.

What follows are four possible ecommerce marketing plans that honor the Olympics and may help your business connect with Olympic fans.

Plan 1: Less than $500 to Spend

Even small ecommerce businesses can place ads or run promotions around the Olympics. The key will be to focus on things that do not cost a lot but that have the potential to attract folks to your site.

  • Content marketing. At the cost of just your time, your business could publish articles, social media posts, and videos related to the Olympics. Your content should be editorial in nature. For example, write a post about Olympic history or about how the Olympic spirit inspires your business. Do not violate the any Olympic copyrights or brands.
  • Athlete endorsement. Many Olympic committees will allow third-party endorsements, meaning that companies, like yours, which are not official Olympic sponsors, can still receive athlete endorsements. In some cases, this might be as simple as giving an Olympic athlete free products in exchange for a Facebook or Instagram mention. Sending a couple of hundred dollars worth of items in exchange for, perhaps, thousands of views may be worth it. Rules apply, so be certain to check. See the U.S. Olympic Committee endorsement guidelines.

Plan 2: $500 to $1,500 to Spend

With a little more money to spend, you can take the options from Plan 1 up a notch.

For example, for the content marketing, you might create a humorous video parody. An online retailer of fishing products could describe what the Olympics would be like if anglers ran them. Events might include sturgeon wrestling, high-speed fly tying, and kayak fishing.

  • YouTube advertising. Your business could promote its Olympic parody video as a commercial on YouTube. “In the last 12 months alone, YouTube watch time for sports like track and field, gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball exceeded total watch time for all of the estimated content ever broadcast on ESPN by 30x. And those numbers will undoubtedly rise as the games take center stage,” wrote Kate Stanford, director of YouTube advertiser marketing at Google.

Stanford certainly has a vested interest in getting you to advertise on YouTube, but she is also probably correct about fans turning to YouTube to watch Olympic-related videos during the games.

Plan 3: $1,500 to $5,000

You could make a more significant investment in an athlete’s endorsement. For example, a site that sells apparel to young women could seek an endorsement from someone like Adeline Gray, a three-time women’s Freestyle wrestling world champion and a likely gold medalist at the 2016 Olympic Games. She is a trailblazer in women’s sports.

The clothing retailer could supply Gray with products and have her appear in online ads or a content marketing profile. There are some restrictions and even blackout dates. Specifically, ads featuring an Olympic athlete’s endorsement may not run during the Olympics. But it would make for a powerful marketing opportunity.

  • Online advertising. Armed with your athlete’s endorsement, place online digital ads before and after the games. During the games, place ads featuring your products on sites likely to attract Olympic fans.

Plan 4: $5,000 to $20,000

With an investment of $5,000 to $20,000, you could hold a social media contest and send a pair of shoppers to the games for a weekend of fun.

The online contest, promoted with online ads and a commercial on YouTube, might attract tens of thousands of folks to your online store. Make subscribing to your email list a requirement for entry and collect likes and follows on social media. These new email subscribers might impact your business and your sales for years.

You would have expenses associated with the promotion and the travel. A pair of airline tickets from Portland, Ore., as an example, to Rio de Janeiro for August 11 to 14 will cost about $3,200. The hotel room for three nights will range from about $600 at the two-star Hotel Mundo Novo to about $3,000 for better accommodations.

You could send the pair of winners to women’s handball on Friday morning ($40); trampoline gymnastics in the afternoon ($40); and the swimming finals ($150 in the cheap seats). Saturday could include the artistic gymnastics apparatus finals ($150) and Greco-Roman wrestling finals ($40).

  • Email marketing. Once you have added many thousands of folks to your email list, send a few, thoughtful, Olympic-inspired marketing messages that encourage sales. You might be surprised how quickly you’ll recover your investment.
Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Russo May 5, 2016 Reply

    I think the name Olympics, Olympics Games are trade marks no?

    • Armando Roggio May 5, 2016 Reply

      Almost any Olympic identifier – think logo, motto, etc. – are protected. Thus, my warning not to violate any Olympic copyrights or trademarks.

      So in the case of this article, the content is editorial, thus it is fair use to include words like the Olympic Games, etc.

      Does that help?

    • Armando Roggio August 4, 2016 Reply

      Russo, very recently the USOC and the IOC have begun to apply Olympic trademark protection differently than in the past. Thus, there are reports that even mentioning the Olympics in a tweet or on Facebook may be considered a problem. I wanted to follow up since you’d commented on this post. AdWeek even said that wishing an athlete good luck could be a violation.

    • Armando Roggio August 5, 2016 Reply

      We have published a new article on this topic. Please take a look when you have a chance.

      https://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/125812-Olympic-Committees-Seek-to-Restrict-Content-Marketing-Social-Media

  2. Elizabeth Hollingsworth May 6, 2016 Reply

    Your customers will get the Olympics reference if you mention “going for gold”, “team spirit” “represent your country” “sportsmanship” etc.

    You could also have a fun contest to be the fastest etc in doing some activity connected with your business.