The 2018 Winter Games boasted strong viewings for fans around the world. While the Olympics seem like an attractive platform for marketing purposes, the Olympic Committee’s rules regarding sponsorship and advertising are notoriously stringent. Official sponsors can use Olympic branding to promote their products, but other non-official brands have to find more creative ways to connect with sports-savvy consumers during the world’s largest sports competition. Additionally, social media has taken center stage in connecting brands, athletes and audiences.

Here is what we took away from this year’s Winter Games.

  1. Foster Awareness of the Host Country Through Food

Online engagement related to Korean food increased by nine times in the days leading up to and following the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies. This was largely driven by people searching for Korean recipes, and sharing content of people and athletes cooking and enjoying Korean food in celebration of the games. Subsequently, the content was amplified by widely-read media sources like The New York Times recommending restaurants and other food-based experiences. For ALDI UK (sponsors of Team GB, but not the Olympics), this created easy engagement, as they encouraged website visitors to “eat like an athlete” and posted Korean dishes on their social media channels.

  1. Don’t Forget: Brand Perception Varies from Country to Country

The Olympics is a good proving ground for testing variations in public perception of brands. A good example is divergent online conversations surrounding Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer. The Netherlands focused on his “disappointing” sixth place finish in the 10,000m speed skating final and subsequent accident involving a massive mock medal. In contrast, Korean audiences focused less on his athletic and public missteps and more on his perceived sex appeal – with more conversation around his physique and approachability, sprinkled with “I love you” messages.

  1. Show How Your Brand Adds to the Experience

Intel captured over half (51 percent) of the total engagement score from the 13 official 2018 Olympics brand sponsors on Twitter. The company accomplished this by using its technology during the games to capture the attention of the home viewer. Unsurprisingly, almost half (43 percent) of their mentions resulted from a pre-recorded live drone show featured during the opening ceremony, which used 1,218 drones for a light show displaying moving images such as a bird flapping its wings or an airborne snowboarder. Their closing ceremony live show also garnered a lot of attention.

  1. Cyber Attacks Aren’t Just For Elections

During the opening ceremonies media reported that a highly-calculated attack took place which proved consequential for the Olympic organizing committee and its sponsors. This underlines the importance of fully preparing a crisis management plan for any sponsorship activation, or any public brand moment.

  1. Celebrate Not Just Diversity, but Representation

Conversations around LGBT visibility, gender equality, and minority representation in the Olympic Games were of topical interest. The conversation was spearheaded by P&G* who came second to Intel with 20 percent of total sponsor engagement via original tweets. Almost 80 percent of P&G’s mentions came from its hashtag #LoveOverBias, encouraging the pursuit of one’s goals regardless of their background, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion. P&G also sponsored #SeeHer TV spots during the Olympics with the goal of supporting the accurate portrayal of all women and girls in the media, and hosted a gender equality panel featuring former Olympians such as Michelle Kwan and Elana Meyers Taylor.

Francesca Kim is a research and insight analyst, Edelman Amsterdam.
Kristen Squire is a senior research manager, Edelman Intelligence, Rochester New York.

Urban Sanden