No Spoiler for Brand Experience

Whatever you do, be careful of spoilers. A warning typically uttered before the dramatic twist is revealed at the end of movies or TV shows, the spoiler alert has quickly become familiar to viewers of London’s 2012 Summer Olympics. Due to the time difference and NBC’s reluctance to air major events live during the day, many of the results for major events are being reported before the mass United States television audience is able to watch them. NBC knew this was going to be an expensive issue, but the backlash the network has received online, especially via social media, has been surprisingly negative. 

This summer’s games have already been dubbed the “Twitter games” by much of the press. Before the games, the IOC made a big splash by adopting the now-infamous “rule 40” which prevents participating Olympians from tweeting any sponsored content from non-Olympic sponsors. In response, many athletes have been protesting the rule by posting photos of themselves with “rule 40” written on tape covering their mouths. Now that the Games are nearing the end, let’s remember that two countries have removed athletes from the competition because of racially charged tweets, and a reporter was briefly banned for tweeting an NBC email. Not surprisingly, the social media network may have made a bigger splash at these games than Michael Phelps.  

After all, this is the biggest stage on which the digital world can shine. The subject that we, as marketers, have been hearing at conference after conference is that “digital will change our industry.” Everyone needs to be in that space, no questions asked. Think about how much has changed since 2008. Twitter and Facebook were still in infancy and YouTube was, perhaps, the only established platform, but still under-utilized. According to author of Mobile First, Luke Wroblewski, “there are more iPhones sold per day (402k) than people born in the world per day (300k),” per his Twitter comment. Concepts like “second screen” and “digital campaigns” were yet to be unveiled. Because of these new factors, London has seen brands step up and capitalize on sponsorships like they never have before. And while digital will get the lion’s share of attention, it is only one piece of the much larger integrated marketing puzzle.

If there is one sponsor that has had the integrated marketing pedal to the metal from the start, it has been Procter & Gamble (P&G). Their digital onslaught started early with their “Best Job” digital short, which salutes the mothers of Olympians. The clip immediately went viral and has hardly slowed down, still claiming to be one of the most-shared digital items pertaining to this summer’s games. In the week leading up to the opening ceremony, the consumer goods giant opened a massive, 65,000-square-foot “U.S. Family Home” next to the London Bridge. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the space features all of the P&G brands, including a Gillette Man Cave, a Pampers Playground and a Duracell Virtual Stadium that, via a computer, automatically displays well wishes to U.S. competitors from fans back in the States.

The space connects well with their earlier digital campaign because it focuses on both the athletes and their families. It connects the two and is an excellent example of how an integrated Olympic campaign is supposed to work. 

P&G is not alone in doing it right. The veteran of Olympic sponsorships, Coca-Cola, has been an Olympic partner for more than 80 years, and has pulled out all of the stops for their digital strategy. Coca-Cola’s 2012 “Move to the Beat” campaign focuses on bringing a youthful audience to the Games and speaking to this audience through their passion: music. Coca-Cola began by posting short videos online about the campaign and recorded an original song titled, “Anywhere in the World,” produced by Grammy winner Mark Ronson. To connect with the Olympics, the track features sounds collected from the training of five Olympic athletes. Fans could also download a mobile app for their smartphone to make their own mix of the song and then share it on their personal social media channels. According to a recent article on, 3.3 million fans have already shared their mix of the song. While Coca-Cola covered all of their bases on the digital front, they did not forget about connecting the digital content with fans on-site at the Olympics. The Coca-Cola Beatbox Pavilion, located directly inside Olympic Park, is an electronically live structure that plays different snippets of music from the Mark Ronson track, as participants take the 200-meter journey to the roof top. The Beatbox is expected to see more than 200,000 visitors during the Olympic run. 

These are great examples of how every sponsoring brand’s platform of the integrated marketing model needs to pull its own weight. Whether a digital ad, the on-site experience, a TV commercial or even a YouTube video, there is a common theme among all of them. This keeps each respective brand’s message consistent to Olympic fans interacting with the games, be it on-site, on the couch or online. All Olympic brands pay a huge price for exclusivity and to join the ranks of the prestigious Olympic sponsors. As a marketer, it’s hard to fault the Olympics or NBC from protecting their investment. Factor in the changing social media landscape, the value to sponsors to connect with fans globally will only continue to grow. 

The world realizes what a unique moment the Summer Olympics are, and it’s critical for brands to tie their message to the spirit of the Games. Let the sports drive the passion of the consumer, and use your brand message as a channel to recognize their passion and show that your brand understands. NBC may have disappointed a digitally vocal portion of U.S. Olympic viewing fans, but the successful Olympic brands continue to prove the power of an integrated approach. Spoiler alert: the integrated approach is earning brands the gold.

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