What can Sochi 2014 teach us about digital marketing?

Digital Marketing By Rhys Little, 18th February 2014

Major sporting events provide a huge opportunity for B2B and B2C digital marketers to express their creativity. We’re only just recovering from the vast number of Super Bowl adverts aired and uploaded to YouTube when us marketers have to deal with another major event – the Winter Olympics.

This month sees the Games, held in Sochi, Russia, act as a superb platform for a range of businesses – from huge multinational corporations to small, regional businesses – to come up with innovative, engaging ads and stories about the event.

But Sochi 2014 isn’t just about brands sponsoring and advertising around the event. It’s about connecting athletes from around the world to inspire a spirit of togetherness during one of the world’s premier competitions.

So, what lessons can digital marketers learn from the companies and athletes taking part in the Games?

Making the impossible possible

One of the greatest things about the Olympics is it brings athletes of all ability from across the world together to compete. amongst the many hundreds of athletes, there are select few whose stories inspire and amaze.

For instance, Thai musician Vanessa-Mae is a world renowned violinist who has sold 10 million albums worldwide. However this month, she will be swapping strings for sticks as she competes in a slalom event at the Winter Olympics after only training for four years – a far cry from the hundreds of athletes who have been honing their craft for years and years. Furthermore, a bobsleigh team from Jamaica managed to qualify for the Winter Olympics despite Jamaica not having the greatest conditions for winter sports. Best of alll, their qualification conjures images of 1993 cult classic Cool Runnings; a film based on the country’s qualification for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Both stories have captured the imagination of readers and have been widely shared on social media, news publications and other content sites.

There are a lot of people looking to capitalise of the Olympics and so marketing material has to have an engaging ‘hook’ allowing it to stand out from the crowd and get people talking.

Social buzz

Major events and microblogging service Twitter go together hand-in-hand. When Twitter users aren’t generating buzz about upcoming events, they are paying homage to stars who managed to nab a medal in their race. For instance, US snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg took home the gold medal in his event and his following grew from 13,400 to 63,900 in a week. Three weeks after GBR snowboarder Jenny Jones’ announcement that she made the GB team, her followers have grown 10-fold to 65,000 and rising.

Marketers should take heed of US competitor Faye Gulini’s advice on social media: “The more people that know who I am, the better off I am. The more people that follow you on your social media, the more people know of you and that opens up doors for sponsors and money.”

The moral of the story is: digital is becoming a much bigger platform that traditional media – newspapers, radio and TV – in recent years. Furthermore, marketers should advertise their digital marketing wins on social media. Users are interested in hearing about success stories and if you keep winning, followers are going to look at your company fondly.

Mix it up

Another great tactic is to mix up your marketing communications. Better yet: get someone else to do it for you!

Samsung has arranged for a ‘Galaxy Team’ of 80 athletes from around the world – all equipped with Samsung mobile devices of course – to capture and share content from the games. Furthermore, the company has also flown a number of student bloggers out to Sochi to report on the event’s atmosphere.

In addition, US television station NBC is providing more than one thousand hours of live streaming from the event including coverage on television, on mobile devices and updates from Twitter.

What do both of these campaigns have in common? They are catering to their desired audience. Potential Samsung customers want to know whether their devices can withstand the test of recording during the Olympics (especially in sub-zero temperatures) while NBC viewers want to hear as much as they can about the Games. By providing several platforms for users to consume content, NBC is doing its job – and a very good one at that.

Marketers need to learn that their communications and campaigns must speak to their target audience. When done well, these types of campaigns benefit companies twofold: they engage their existing target base and attract new users to the brand.

It is not just Sochi 2014 that will get marketers thinking about their campaigns. This year looks to be a veritable feast of major events: the World Cup in Brazil, Commonwealth Games in Scotland, the Eurovision song contest and the Tour de France to name but a few. It’s likely all marketers could learn a thing or two from these events.