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How can advertisers take over the 2020 Olympics?

The Olympic games may well be one of the most important sporting, cultural, and economic events in the world. Every four years we see the biggest cities and companies clamour to be the host, the Official Beverage, Official Restaurant, Official Shampoo of the Olympic Games.

With the Tokyo Olympics just around the corner, discussion on the sheer cost of hosting the Olympics is now coming to the fore. In fact, just applying to host the event is a costly affair, as Japan found out the hard way with the €135m they spent on a failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

The debate on the financial cost of the Olympics has long been settled, with every Olympic host city since 1960 going over budget in their preparations. Only Los Angeles turned a profit, and that was largely thanks to the fact that they were the only city to bid for the 1984 Olympics. Many other cities have been financially crippled by hosting the spectacle. The billions of euro of debt accrued by Athens 2004 are recognised as a key factor in Greece going bankrupt, and Montreal only finished paying the cost of the 1976 games in 2006. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that 30 years for an ROI of 1 is a poor investment.


Despite all the deep dives into the economic viability of the Olympics, there is often little talk about the impact of the Olympics on advertisers and sponsors. Is it an equally poor investment, or is there any way to justify the billions invested in advertising? The answer is Yes and No.

Looking at three of the largest companies sponsoring the Olympics, P&GSamsung, and Coca-Cola, we can see frustratingly mixed results. The global sales figures of all three companies have been declining since 2013, with no company showing a bump in sales figures in an Olympic year.


To make matters worse, Coca-Cola’s reputation took a dive after the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, when it didn’t speak out against the anti-LGBT legislation that was passed in Russia during the event and appeared to side with the country by banning the use of the word “gay” from its customisable “Share a Coke” website. You can see the huge impact this inaction and action had on Coca-Cola’s reputation in both Russia and the USA after the Sochi Winter Olympics.


But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Olympics. If you can get the message right, your brand reputation will thank you. P&G has done an excellent job by finding a strong message that resonates with almost everyone and sticking with it in the London, Sochi, and Rio Olympic Games. The simple yet effective “Thank you Mom” campaign. The use of a consistent and universal campaign that focuses on positive and relatable emotions has paid off, with marked improvements in how people view P&G, and its products.



All Response Media viewpoint
The 2020 Olympics is fast approaching. We can put the host city’s woes out of our minds and focus on the opportunities it presents advertisers. Outside of the advertising giants like P&G and Coca-Cola, time and time again we have seen strong responses to charity and e-commerce clients that have advertised in and around major sporting events like the Football World Cup, Tour de France, and PGA tour events. This year, our client Save The Children – across their Italy, Norway and Netherlands divisions – all saw huge jumps in traffic and hundreds of donations by advertising during the Women’s Football World Cup. Another one of our newest clients, Happn, also launched in The Netherlands with a spot in the World Cup final, achieving an exceptional level of app installs from just that one ad break. We also achieved similarly strong results with Redd Barna (Save the Children Norway) by advertising in the Tour De France.

With close to 4 billion people tuning in to watch each Summer Olympic Games in the last two decades, it offers an opportunity like no other to put our clients in front of the audience on the world’s biggest stage. So long as the copy is more P&G and less Coca-Cola, and efficient and effective opportunities are available, we can all expect big things from the summer of 2020.


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