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The Olympics are delayed for this year, but that doesn’t change their persistent underlying value. The
Olympics remain a huge opportunity and attractive investment for advertisers, allowing them to reach a diverse, engaged, and massive global audience across the 16-day period. It’s worth remembering that budgets locked in for US broadcaster NBC were at a record high for the Olympics prior to the announcement of the games being postponed.
Those marketers now have another year to plan, and new challenges to plan around. Many of our tried-and-true best practices for the Olympics remain viable in 2021, but they must adapt to an environment where everything has changed, and where tone, tenor, and authenticity are paramount.
Suddenly this mainstay of the marketing calendar is a highly dynamic situation, affected by not only the disruptions to the event itself but disruptions in the workflows and processes of the advertisers tasked with messaging into it. It’s a moment that calls for true dynamic creativity in both the organization and the message.
More complex than ever
The Olympics are the quintessential global media event, and for many marketers, this means activating campaigns in multiple international markets at once. Delivering a consistent and relevant message means translating into several languages, and taking into account cultural, economic, and geographical signals – a daunting task even under normal circumstances.
COVID-19 – another quintessentially global event – has added a huge new variable to make a complicated world even more complex. Countries vary widely in their experiences; some have been more affected than others, and their economies are recovering at different paces and with different measures. To some extent, this amplifies a challenge already present within the US itself, as different states and local economies reopen on their own schedules.
Marketers must account for this variability. As we’ve already seen, authenticity and tone matter even more than usual in the context of a pandemic. Finding that balance requires real tactical capability in dynamic creative – the facility to create and implement decision trees that can adjust creative around important signals in real-time.
Dynamic factors, enduring themes
One of the best “hacks” for managing all of this complexity is to focus on a core message that is timeless and universal – to focus on themes that translate well across borders – or ones that hardly need to be translated at all.
This is where Olympics advertising has always excelled: in universal themes of uniting the nation, of the hometown hero, and the “against all odds” underdog. In one recent example, Samsung created a film behind South Sudan’s first-ever Olympic team, focusing on their 400m runner, Margret Rumat. And while every story is unique, the perennial theme of overcoming steep odds and making history is tried and true guides for Olympics creative. These campaigns offer a creative playbook that’s worth following whether or not your brand is an official Olympics sponsor.
The Olympics present the challenge of managing hugely different (and now even more complex) cultural contexts all on a global scale and in the appropriate language. With the right technology, the right message, and another year to plan ahead, marketers can more than meet the challenge.