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Content, Strategy

Winning Content Marketing Gold Through the 2016 Olympics

4 August 2016
rio olympics city scape | Winning Content Marketing Gold Through the 2016 Olympics | Neon

One of the most prestigious sporting events in the world returns again this summer as the Olympics and Paralympics take place in Rio during August and September 2016.

This four-yearly event doesn’t just offer athletes the opportunity to impress; there’s also the chance for brands to dazzle through smart content marketing. But beware – because while well-considered activity can generate significant results, poorly considered activity can end in disaster and even penalisation. So how do you get it right?


This has been a summer of sport, and with all major sporting events, there are sponsorship and licensing agreements in place. Slazenger, Robinsons, and IBM were among the official partners of the Wimbledon championships, while Orange, Coca-Cola and Adidas were involved with Euro 2016. Coca-Cola is also involved in the Olympics alongside the likes of McDonald’s, Panasonic and P&G, and all will expect to get value and exclusivity from what will have been a sizeable financial investment.

To help ensure this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) clamps down hard to ensure that only the brands officially involved with the Games can use official assets, such as the famous rings logo and even the word Olympics (or any variation thereof). The Rio Olympics’ official website lists the following as some of the ‘protected expressions’: ‘Olympic Games’, ‘Paralympic Games’, ‘Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games’, ‘Rio 2016 Games’, ‘Rio 2016’, ‘Rio Olympiad’, ‘Rio 2016 Olympiad’, ‘XXXI Olympic Games’.

Adding further context, the site states: “The use of the Rio 2016 brands for editorial and journalistic purposes is permitted if there is no commercial association between the published content and the Games…. It is not allowed to use the Rio 2016 brands in association with any kind of propaganda, whether partisan, religious, political and, especially, advertising with the purpose of promoting the sale of products and services.”

This essentially means that any use of logos or terminology that will associate a brand with the Games is strictly prohibited. So, for example, we can use those terms in this blog because this blog isn’t suggesting any commercial association between us (or any other brand) and the Games. However, if a brand were to run a ‘Gold Medal Sale’ or offer ‘Olympic Discounts’ that would be deemed a breach of the IOC’s rules and leave that brand open to potential penalty.

Content Marketing Around The Olympics

So how can a brand still leverage the Olympics without contravening the rules? It’s difficult, but it can be done – if executed with care.

Understand your audience

The first rule is to understand whether your audience will react to Olympics-related content. It’s very easy to assume that everyone is interested in the Games, such is their ubiquity, but are they popular enough with your audience to warrant a role in your content strategy? There are plenty of other events happening across August and September, and they could chime with your target audience much more than the Olympics. Use your data and analytics, understand what your customers want and what they react to, and if it’s not the Olympics, either don’t venture towards Olympics-themed content marketing or keep it minimal.

Make sure your content is relevant

There’s nothing worse than a brand tweeting about irrelevant things just to seem current. At best, this practice can make a brand seem desperate, at worst it can come off as insensitive or offensive. There was a minor controversy in 2015 when brands marked the anniversary of 9/11 by tweeting under the #NeverForget hashtag. Well-intentioned though these tweets may have been, they don’t feel sincere enough coming from a major brand. On the lighter end of the scale, the birth of Princess Charlotte also encouraged many brand tweets, and while some were relevant (such as those from Mamas and Papas and Clarks Shoes), others were not. What exactly does Beats By Dre have to do with the Royal Baby? Keep it relevant or risk looking ridiculous.

Get creative

You can’t write about the Games or any of the events, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write compelling content that your Olympics-loving audience can engage with. Holiday companies can create content around hot and sunny locations like Rio; soft drink companies can create content around getting out for a summer barbecue with their soft drink; fashion brands can write about how their customers can infuse a bit of Brazilian style into their personal look. None of this is tied directly to the Olympics, but it taps into emotions and themes that will be a part of the national and international conversation during August and September.

Distribute at the right time:

Timing is everything. The most perfectly crafted tweet or beautifully written blog post counts for nothing if it isn’t posted at the right time. So think not just about what you’re saying, but when you’re saying it. If the majority of your blog traffic comes between 7pm and 9pm, that’s the best time to publish. If you’re getting the majority of your social engagement over lunchtime on weekdays, that’s the best time to push out social postings. Additionally, pay close attention to the Olympic schedule and how people are responding to events online. Find popular events and sweet spots and take advantage by posting around them.


The Olympics is a major event that will capture interest across the globe. Brands who are looking to create content marketing opportunities around the Games should do so with caution, as it’s very easy to fall foul of the IOC’s strict rules and even easier to create bland and irrelevant content. When done well though, there’s a great chance for brands to really make an impact with their target audience.

How will your brand be taking advantage of the Olympics? Tweet us the content you’ve put together @createdbyneon!

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