Rio’s 2016 Summer Olympics is finally underway and the energy is palpable. It’s amazing to think about the level of talent from across the world coming together, putting aside politics and cultural differences to compete in something as pure as sport. Surely, there are Olympic-sized swimming pools of emotional inspiration to be had and lessons to be learned from the Summer Olympics, but as a marketer at heart, I have also found inspiration that directly correlates with my profession. Though onlookers can glean a few tips from watching the exhaustive efforts put into branding and marketing the games, I have a bit of a unique point of view on this subject.
Working as part of the 1996 Summer Olympics’ sales and client services team, I had a front-row seat to witness greatness achieved both on and off the fields.
5 Marketing Lessons Learned from Working the Summer Olympics
- Training isn’t just for the athletes: Good marketing doesn’t just happen. No, it takes the mentorship of skilled experts, daily preparation, continued study and detailed observations to get it right. There is something to be said about resilience in this industry, and the Olympics are an excellent metaphor for the years of hard work that go into being the best.
- Even tried and true products can use innovation: The 1996 Summer Olympics marked the first time that skyboxes and suite-style seating were utilized to generate revenue. If the Olympics can embrace new ideas and reap the success of such innovation, your brand should be willing to do the same. Even though things had been running smoothly for (thousands) of years, they still sought out opportunities to take the product offering to another level.
- Messaging moves the needle: The innovation mentioned above demonstrates more than the benefits of trying new tactics — it also shows the importance of messaging. One of my tasks at the Olympics was to fill seats at the less popular events (everyone wanted to attend the gold medal gymnastics event, but fewer people were buying judo tickets). Strategically positioning and pairing the lesser attended events with the more popular ones led to successful ticket sales and attendance rates.
- Marketing and sales play for the same team: Whether marketing for something as tangible as tickets or as intangible as general brand awareness, in my opinion, you cannot effectively market something until you learn how to sell it. I was responsible for selling packages for a combination of sporting events and learned many marketing (and sales) lessons through this experience that I still utilize to this day.
- Winning matters: We all know that winning an Olympics competition is a HUGE deal, and the truth is, it can be a major public relations win and morale booster for an entire country. The same can be said for winning awards for your company. Applying for awards and seeking accolades for your products and services helps demonstrate expertise and ultimately assist in generating new business.
Admittedly, a lot has changed since 1996. However, the marketing lessons are still relevant and viable in 2016. Taking cues from a marketing and sales powerhouse like the Olympics can help garner your brand a few gold medals of its own. Just remember to train hard, stay open to innovation, be observant and keep your eye on the prize. We’ll see you on the podium.