The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Olympics Coca-Cola Advertising

Which brands were the winners and losers from Rio 2016 - sports marketers have their say


By Tony Connelly, Sports Marketing Reporter

August 22, 2016 | 6 min read

The relaxation of the advertising restrictions around the Olympics IP marked a shift in the world of sports marketing with non-official sponsors being allowed to leverage the popularity of the Games and use their star brand ambassadors in the process.

Rio olympics

Rio Olympics

With Rio 2016 concluded, The Drum asked the sports marketing industry who their winners and losers of Rio 2016 were.


Team GB- "Not only were Team GB the first nation to have ever won more medals than the Olympics they hosted but they have seen their brand value grow significantly ahead of a number of renewal conversations post games. Team GB’s interaction with their partners and fans pre and during the games has translated into significant growth across Twitter. There were 372K followers at the end of London 2012. Today there are 808k. In the few days before the 2016 Olympics started there were 6.1K new followers. During the last two weeks over @TeamGB has seen over 100K new followers. Team GB’s social channels have become the destination ahead of the BBC to consume engaging and informative content from athletes and personalities." John Scurfield, head of UK sport and entertainment at MediaCom.

Coca Cola- “The longest continuous sponsor of the Olympic Games delivered a textbook demonstration of integrated marketing. All activity was linked back to a brutally simple theme – That’s Gold – and was delivered through forward-thinking channel planning that placed influencers front and centre to engage with younger audiences.” Neil Hopkins, director at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment.

Under Armour- “Their golden run of working with the best athletes continues. The Michael Phelps video, part of the Rule Yourself campaign, got everyone talking about the brand before the Games and as the team outfitter of USA Gymnastics the new star of Team USA, Simone Biles, performed her winning routines in their apparel; and all this without being an official Olympics sponsor.” Alex Coulson, executive director, Sport Industry Group.

National Lottery- “With Team GB collecting its highest ever medal tally, many athletes were quick to pay tribute to the funding received from the National Lottery that enables them to train, prepare and compete at the highest level. In addition to the overwhelming advocacy from athletes, the National Lottery ran its own "I am Team GB" campaign highlighting its role in funding grassroots and professional sports. The activity included a film that shows a stream of animated lottery tickets flying through Britain, transforming amateur athletes into professionals.” Dan Tunna, account director at Pitch.

Nissan- “As was the case with Samsung School of Rio, Nissan showed that humour is a great way of cutting through the clutter. “Accidentally” releasing the brand’s athlete briefing videos for the Games gained a lot of exposure. In Rio itself, the car maker’s Nissan Kicks Hotel was among the more prominent brand experiences thanks to a giant LED screen adjacent to Copacabana that shared messages of support throughout the games. They also had their cars everywhere that mattered.” Neil Hopkins, director at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment.

DFS- “The stand out Team GB partner was DFS, having selected three iconic medallists – Laura Trott, Max Whitlock and Adam Peaty - as its ambassadors. Their content series from Team GB House in Rio has been the standout campaign generating exclusive behind the scenes content from the house, a house which DFS helped design and furnish creating a real home-from home atmosphere in Rio. There’s also been lots of traction on Twitter with a #Flipit game, a game whose leader board was topped by their very own Max Whitlock. DFS were able to blend the right mix of utilising their official partnership assets with storytelling form their ambassadors coupled with highly targeted media partnerships and real time placements throughout the games.” John Scurfield, head of UK sport and entertainment at MediaCom.

Samsung- “From a brand activation viewpoint, there is only one outstanding campaign- Samsung’s ‘School of Rio’ with Jack Whitehall and Bradley Wiggins. It has been so well received and is a fantastic example of in-market brand activation– it is funny and relevant.” Kelly Williams, managing director at Sports Revolution.


McDonald’s- “Focusing on friendship for Rio 2016 didn’t receive the traction they had hoped. McDonald’s lost out to other partners who also looked to friendship and unity all of which makes the Olympics great. Whilst McDonald’s did look to capitalise on Olympic athletes posting their meal menu’s across social media, the large queues at the McDonald’s within the Olympic village limited any goodwill or showcasing their customer service and fast food credentials.” John Scurfield, head of UK sport and entertainment at MediaCom.

International Olympic Committee- “The IOC has been plagued with issues throughout Rio 2016 which have threatened to undermine the Olympic brand itself. On the eve of the Games anti-doping groups accused them of putting politics and business ahead of clean sport in response to state-sponsored doping in Russia. When the Games got underway it was clear there was a huge disparity between the claimed number of ticket sales and those actually present with many venues worryingly empty throughout the two weeks. Apparently the IOC had been so fixated on making sure the venues and infrastructure was finished they had not marketed them properly. Add to this problems with numbers of volunteers and the funding fiasco which threatens the participation of several countries in the Paralympics.” Dan Tunna, account director at Pitch.

Ambush Marketers- “Other than the obligatory Paddy Power antics, there was distinct lack of successful ambush marketing campaigns of the like witnessed in London by Beats headphones. Far tougher legislation against such activity through the IOC’s rule 40 clearly had the effect intended.” Neil Hopkins, director at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment.

Ryan Lochte- “Lochte entered the Rio 2016 as one of the most successful and marketable swimmers in history, with 12 Olympic medals and sponsorship deals with Ralph Lauren and Speedo. However after fabricating a story of being robbed in Rio along with three teammates he left Rio with his reputation in tatters and Speedo have dropped him.” Dan Tunna, account director at Pitch.

Olympics Coca-Cola Advertising

More from Olympics

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +