2018 Olympics Marketing. Why Not Everyone Can Do It

The Olympics serve as one of the most visible global marketing stages, but not every brand can use this promotion opportunity. If the company doesn’t splurge on sponsorship, the Rule 40, a bylaw in the Olympics Charter, prevents it from riding the Olympics hype train. As Adweek explained, it means for instance,  that a brand cannot as much as mention ‘Olympics’, or ‘Team USA’, and best not even to use “Pyeongchang” in social media and other marketing channels during the Games not to get into hot waters.

The Olympics are expensive and since sponsorship revenues go in part towards paying for them, the International Olympic Committee is eager to protect the value of the sponsorship it sells. This is why Olympic partner brands pretty much can conduct any advertising and promotions, that have been pre-approved by the Olympic Committee and why everyone else, including the athletes, cannot.

For brands that have sponsorship and partnership deals, both the stakes and the opportunities are high. Here are some of the most eye-catching promotions of 2018 Winter Games.


This year Alibaba has started its Olympic sponsorship with the first-ever global brand campaign. ‘To the greatness of small’ campaign will run across five major global markets, and includes billboards in South Korea, social media ads in the US, UK and Japan, and TV ads and billboards in China.

What makes the campaign so appealing? For one, it’s hard to resist the power of story, that Alibaba is telling: ‘small’ matters and can not be ignored. In addition, it organically continues the core belief of the company— support of small businesses and entrepreneurs in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.
The ongoing “Thank you mom” Olympics campaign evolves, changing the angle every year. Just like the 2012, 2014, 2016 versions, this year’s P&G video ad is an emotional hit. For 2018 Winter Olympics, the company chose the “Love Over Bias” theme, inspired by the IOC survey that revealed over half of Olympians experience bias growing up and mum is the one person credited with helping them overcome that. Hats off to the empathy marketing masters.



For its ‘Finding New Finish Lines’ commercial, the company drew inspiration from people who treat every finish line like a new start, and see every opportunity as a chance to prove that we can all do more. We bet ‘Anything I can do, I can do better’ tune will be stuck with you for weeks now.

Omega, the official timekeeper of 2018 Olympics, launched a TV and print campaign “Recording Olympic Dreams”, featuring touching archive moments of the previous Games. In celebration of the Games, the brand also issued a limited “PYEONGCHANG 2018” watch collection.


Since 1928, the company is the longest continuous partner of the Games. At 2018 Winter Games, you can’t miss Coca-Cola’s presence either: the company supported Olympic torch relay, assembled Coke Lounge for athletes to relax, ‘photo cubes’ and ‘warming stations’ in the Olympic Plaza for spectators to capture the moment and hide from the cold. In addition, the company installed a ‘Giant Vending Machine’ in Seoul and Gangneung, which became a hit attraction on its own.

For the TV commercial, the brand chose Korea’s most beloved actor Bogum Park and the queen of figure skating Yuna Kim, to raise consumer awareness and interest ahead of the Games. While news about companies like McDonald’s exiting the Olympic sponsorship is alerting, there’s a misperception about the global and national sponsorship deals, creating an impression that Olympics seized to be a prime marketing opportunity. CNN Money cites Michael Payne, the former head of the IOC’s marketing and TV rights, saying the IOC’s global deals are typically stable and long term. He mentioned Coca-Cola, Visa, Panasonic, Samsung and Omega as examples of long-term partners and highlighted the fact that IOC was ‘criticized for all partners being American” in the past. The sponsorship landscape is changing, and so are marketing efforts, we can’t wait to see the branding innovations for upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo and Beijing.



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