How to reach global audiences during this year’s Olympic Games

How to reach global audiences during this year’s Olympic Games
Peggy Chen is the CMO of global marketing at SDL, including strategy, branding, messaging, product marketing, content marketing, demand generation, field marketing and communications. She brings with her over 16 years of experience in the software industry, leading product management and product marketing teams and marketing organizations.


With every Olympics, the hosting country had prepared itself for the influx of tourists coming from every culture and language. These preparations began well in advance of the Games themselves and include everything from venue signage and hotel information, to public transportation and city guides.

Many cities use the event to strengthen their infrastructure and improve both event-specific and future tourism prospects.  

In addition, the many businesses within a city and event sponsors have unprecedented opportunity to capture the eyes of the world in this massively televised event.

2016: Let the Games begin

For the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, more than 10,000 athletes competing in everything from water polo to weightlifting capture the hearts of the nations they represent.

Those making the trip to the Games are often accommodated by the host country in terms of multi-language content to help them find their way to hotels, restaurants, retailers and the Olympic venues. There is no doubt that marketing opportunities abound for local businesses to appeal to multinational Olympic fans.

With this year’s event well underway, marketers have already hooked in to both the international essence of these world Games as well as local pride for their athletes.

Celebrating sports and national achievements

Historically, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) applied strict regulations requiring organisations to have permission before using the event’s name or logo in public relations, advertisements or marketing materials.

Outside of specific sponsors, which include well-known sporting brands, electronics firms, car manufacturers and more, broadcast rights and local sponsorships provide substantial revenue and the opportunity to take advantage of this global happening.

There is no doubt that the Olympics provides global marketers with ample opportunity to hook into the power of the brand

As of summer 2015, the IOC changed “Rule 40,” allowing non-sponsors to promote Olympic athletes if they started their marketing campaigns by March 27, 2016 and continued to run these ads throughout the Games. This has resulted in an influx of brands enjoying the opportunity to ride the Olympic wave.

For those who didn’t meet the March 27 deadline, marketing can still tie into the energy and spirit of this cross-cultural, multinational event by emphasizing local sporting achievements, creating cross-cultural awareness and highlighting locally available products and services. While consumers are likely to hear more about sponsoring brands, there is no doubt that the local pride in nationally known athletes, national colors and subtler tie ins present their own opportunities.

Some of the most prominent non-sponsors that have affiliated themselves with the Games for U.S. markets include Under Armor (featuring Michael Phelps and the US women’s gymnastics team), Speedo, Gatorade, Adidas and more.

Origami Logic, a marketing business insight company, is tracking Olympics-related marketing activities on its Twitter account @brandolympics.

Looking Ahead to 2020

Japan is already preparing for the 2020 Olympics. The preparations involve not only building venues, but readying the local population to receive and provide international tourists with the best possible Japanese travel experience.

Japan hopes to target more than 40 million people – with tourism, travel, hospitality and retail industries already gearing up. For many businesses, this involves increasing the existing languages they communicate in to include up to 20 different languages.

For example, many Japanese airlines already use translation services and technology to make it easy to book flights. But beyond translating basic content, they have gone one step further to provide traveler-centric content. In particular, the Japan Airlines website provides a comprehensive ‘Guide to Japan’ that contains information about recommended destinations, events and themes targeted to traveler interests.

The idea is to engage international travelers with information about Japanese culture, but with the ease of their own languages and perspectives.

Many Japanese businesses as well as federal and local governments are seeking to improve the traveler experience in advance of the 2020 Games.

Everything from train stations and restaurants to hotels and cultural destinations require affordable translation solutions that provide both basic translations as well as value-added traveler-centric content.

Riding on the Olympic Coattails

There is no doubt that the Olympics provides global marketers with ample opportunity to hook into the power of the brand, as well as the spirit of the Games through local marketing.

In many ways these Games are a perfect example of a global event that also entails a very local celebration. For hosting countries, there is a critical need for a clear and literal customer journey that entails translation as well as an understanding of what foreign visitors will want and need during their stay.  

For brands that want to capitalize on the Olympic excitement, they don’t always need to be a sponsor – but they do need to have an integrated strategy for engaging on both a global and local scale. 

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