To the Point

Going for the Gold

Meeting organizers can take a page from some creative sponsorships at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The iconic Olympic torch is making its way to Rio de Janeiro, which means it won’t be long until the first 2016 Summer Olympics competitions begin. That also means it won’t be

long until the competitive sport of Olympics marketing kicks into high gear.

The Olympic Games have been called one of the best international marketing platforms in the world, reaching billions of people in more than 200 countries. Yet the economic and political situation in Brazil is creating challenges for Summer Games sponsors — and teams and athletes today must deal with exorbitant costs in order to stay competitive, so they rely on those sponsorship dollars for support. Add to the mix a long history of the Games — requiring sponsors to think of fresh and relevant ways to engage fans — and you have a host of challenges for them to surmount.

Here are some creative approaches Olympic sponsors are taking that may inspire meeting organizers to amp up their own sponsorship programs.

Barter better. Given Brazil’s recession, local Olympic Committee organizers are working with local retailers on in-kind sponsorship agreements. For example, according to a Bloomberg article (, Brazilian rental-car company Localiza will supply approximately 150 Nissan cars adapted for the 95-day cross-country torch relay in exchange for using the Olympics logo in its retail stores and marketing to attract tourists for rentals.

Don’t keep good works on the QT. Corporate social responsibility programs are certainly not new, but sponsors are expected to make better use of their marketing platforms to spread the word about how they are benefiting underserved communities in Brazil. Nissan’s mentorship program for 31 Brazilian athletes, among others, will likely be given broad exposure.

Tell a good story. The Olympics are out of this world — the stage is huge, the athleticism awe-inspiring, and the capital needed to put it on is great. What sponsors realize is that the messages that resonate today are the ones that bring the event back down to earth. Sponsors, including Proctor & Gamble, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and BMW, are using tug-at-the-heartstrings ad campaigns to tell the story of the people and products behind some of the most amazing Olympic feats.

Think unconventionally. U.S. runner Nick Symmonds sold T-Mobile the rights for a temporary tattoo to be placed on his right shoulder for the upcoming racing season. (For the record: $21,800 in an eBay auction.) No matter that Olympics rules may require Symmonds to cover up the tattoo if he qualifies as expected — the deal has already generated a lot of attention for him and T-Mobile, especially on social media.

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.