Ambush Marketing…Nike Style

Today, officially, and dare I say, thankfully, we say good-bye to the London 2012 Games, though not without a shout out to team USA’s men’s gold medal winning bball team.  (Hey, Melo, any chance you can bring some of that juice home to NYC?)

Companies pay huge sums to be Olympic sponsors, and, theoretically at least,  for good reason – for two weeks every two years the entire planet is focused on something positive.  Not many marketing opportunities can give you that kind of stage.  One of the London Games’ official sponsors, for example, was adidas.  By some estimates, adidas paid, based on today’s exchange rate, about $160 million over the last four years for exclusive marketing rights in the UK only, which included the cost of the sponsorship, the ad campaigns and outfitting the athletes.  The New York Times reports that the sponsorship piece alone cost (again, based on today’s exchange rate) about $60 million.  To quote Macaulay Culkin from one of my top 10 Will & Grace episodes, “That’s a lotta chedda, yo!”

Then there’s Nike.  They ran a wonderful, engaging TV ad called “Find Your Greatness – Jogger” that is not only a viral sensation, but has really captured peoples’ imaginations (you can watch it here).  Then they stuck it to adidas in their own backyard with this print ad featuring the great British women’s marathoner and current world champion Paula Radcliffe.  Then this morning during the men’s bball finals, they ran a “Game On” spot that was as kick-ass and adrenaline-fueled as “Find Your Greatness” was endearing (you can see it here).  Cost of the sponsorship?  Zero.  They paid for media buys and production costs, but they paid no sponsorship fee because they weren’t a sponsor.  Net result?  Ad Age reported that of 1,034 US consumers surveyed, 37% identified Nike as an Olympic sponsor.

Call it chutzpah (look it up), call it good ol’ American ingenuity.  But THAT is how it’s done.

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Olympic Athletes, Rock Stars, and the Challenges of Sponsorship

I know – been a long time.  Happy to be back.  Promise to be more prolific.  On to the news…

Interesting quandary, this IOC Rule 40.  It’s part of the IOC’s Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines, which you can download here.  Rule 40 is designed to protect the interests of the official Olympic event sponsors by precluding any athlete from allowing their name, picture or performance to be used for advertising purposes except as permitted by the IOC.  Were it not , however, for the athletes’ personal sponsors and the support those companies have provided over the years, many athletes – like those from the US and other nations that receive no federal support – would not be able to compete in the games.  Last time I checked, no athletes, no games.  Ad Age has a good piece on the topic.

Compare this to musical artists with tour sponsors.  Or more accurately, rock stars, since they are the only artists that can typically attract corporate sponsorship.  The venues they play, which are generally large because that’s how rock stars roll, also have sponsors since that’s the only way they can make money – the rock stars often take +/-100% of the gate, leaving the venue with over-priced beer, parking, and sponsorship as their only sources of revenue.  Since both sides typically guarantee sponsors category exclusivity, sometimes they conflict.  Only in this case, it’s the artist that usually wins.  No rock star, no show.

So what’s the upshot here?  As our collective media consumption continues to fragment, as engaging audiences becomes more and more difficult across multiple, often simultaneous screens, as social media and our nearly obsessive propensity to share transmits massive amounts of news and info around the world in the time it takes to press “send,” aligning with a sporting event or a rock star that captures the world’s imagination may seem like a good bet – a way to simplify a complex challenge.  It can be.  But nothing is that simple.  Just make sure you’re laying the right bets.