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The Olympics celebrate smaller sports and stars – here’s how to maintain momentum

By Jamie Bush, Design director



The Drum Network article

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July 3, 2024 | 7 min read

Sports marketers have an unparalleled opportunity at the Paris Olympics, says Jamie Bush of Designwerk for our sports & fitness focus week. So, find the right partnerships, foreground the stars, and ensure brand alignment with your fans’ expectations.

The Eiffel Tower is visible through one of the Olympic rings

The world's attention will be on Paris this summer for the Olympic Games / Luca Dugaro via Unsplash

In sports, the challenge is always to grow, to improve, to beat your personal best. For sports marketers, it’s really no different – and the Olympics is the mother of all benchmarks.

All of a sudden, the nation is staying up until 2am to watch a sport that last week, they didn’t know existed – it’s an unbelievable opportunity for exposure and growth. The question for many brands and marketers must currently be, ‘How do we make the most of this time in the sun?’

It’s a daunting thought, especially as the funding and growth of many sports can live or die by their success at the Olympics.

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Use star power

Fans live the sport through the struggles and triumphs of its athletes, on the field and off. Build a bond between fans and your sport by giving the athletes a platform. Flood your channels with star content, from behind-the-scenes preparations and training rituals to Q&As or travel posts. Audiences crave the inside scoop and getting to know the person they are cheering on is likely to translate to stronger, lasting engagement with the sport itself. Any way you can champion your athletes’ culture, context or community is a potential plus.

Take Tom Daley. He sat knitting in the stands as he cheered his teammates at the Olympics in Tokyo, and the world loved it: commentators, fans, and netizens everywhere. There was an upspike in knitting, thanks to the ‘Tom Daley Effect’. Moments like this demonstrate the powerful intersection of sport and culture and the potential for athletes to bring new fans along for the ride. So turn your sports stars into content stars. Build a bond with your sport via the people who bring it to life. Every little snippet of ‘human’ adds to the engageability of the sport.

Pick your partners

The Olympic torch burns briefly, but brightly, so you want to think hard about who it shines on. Maximizing on your Olympic opportunities is not something you have to do alone. The partners you choose can help to boost exposure, education, and engagement, as well as bring cultural clout to your brand.

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Team USA caused a buzz when they announced that Kim Kardashian’s brand, Skims, would be making all of the athletes' innerwear, sleepwear, and loungewear. Kardashian, step-daughter of former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, boasted at the time an Instagram following of 243 million – and her post about the partnership received a cool 1.8 million likes.

Not all sports or teams have someone as culturally seismic as Kim K on hand. But what this campaign does illustrate is that you can generate a much larger splash if you partner up. If you don’t have a large social following, create a partnership with a like-minded entity that does. Ask yourself what kind of conversation you want around your brand, and get creative with who can help start it for you. But buyer beware: ensure that your partner is aligned with your values, and vice versa, or the whole thing will reek of inauthenticity.

Let the brand speak

One of the best ways you can capitalize on the Olympics is to make sure your branding, including all comms, is capturing your sports’ unique flair, so the magic continues long after the ceremony closes.

Take Rugby Sevens. The short-format, super-fast game has become well-known for its atmosphere, more than its skill: its flair is fun. The crowd gets dressed up, music is played loud, and partying is encouraged. And it’s this essence that the sport has captured perfectly in its recent rebrand. Young, vibrant, and colorful, the brand now communicates the sport’s trademark festival feel, putting the unique flair of Sevens front and center in everything it does and says. Nostalgic for anyone who’s been before, and enticing for people yet to see a single minute of gameplay, the rebrand works for current and prospective fans alike.

The Olympics are just around the corner now, and in the blink of an eye, it’ll be over. Between now and then, there will be talk of legacy, history, performance, and dreams – both made and dashed. It’s all good fodder, so make the most of it.

For more play-by-play on sports marketing in 2024, check out our focus week hub.

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