Rio 2016 Marketing Facts

Rio 2016: Olympic Marketing Facts

Rio 2016: Gold Level Advertising

As the Olympics are well underway and athletes are counting medals, there is another group of people who are winning gold.

They may not be standing on a podium in front of thousands of fans, nor have their national anthem echoed in the stadium. However, their voice is as loud as the crowd that roared Mo Farah and Bolt over the finish line. We are talking about the World Sponsors and brands which have taken front stage to enforce their place on the starting grid for advertising.

1996 – Nike Stealing the Spotlight

Since the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, strict guidelines have been placed upon companies as to how they can use the Olympics for any brand-related advertising campaigns. Consequently, any unofficial campaigns or atrocious comments will result in a pack of black-suited lawyers on your doorstep if you don’t abide. Moreover, they most likely won’t be using the doorbell if you were concerned. (I’m typing this in the dark as I speak, with the door locked…)

Here we have collected a few examples of the restrictions firms, brands & companies face:

  • You can’t feature Olympic athletes in your social posts.
  • You can’t even wish them luck.
  • Don’t post any Olympics results.
  • You can’t share anything from official Olympics social media accounts. Even retweets are prohibited.

Source: (Adweek, 2016


At the time of the controversial Nike campaign in 1996, they were not an official sponsor. This meant that they didn’t have to fork out millions, which competitor Reebok did. However, Michael Johnson having the world’s fastest feet at the time was sporting —a $30,000 pair of lightweight racing spikes. Courtesy of Nike, of course. Nothing could be better for the global giants, Nike, as an advertising success! The world watching… camera’s flashing as he swings the boots around his neck, adjacent to his Gold Medal.

According to Adweek Reebok was reported to pay $50 million to become an official sponsor, yet did not receive the same coverage as Nike did. You can understand why the likes of Reebok, official partners and the IOC were enraged. For the next 20 years, it resulted in strict guidelines as shown above to protect the Olympic games from guerrilla marketing tactics and official partners. However, at the London 2012 Olympics, there was clear frustration on how strict the rules have become for non-sponsors.

So, did this help or damage the Olympic brand?

For the Rio Olympic 2016 games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have relaxed rules around athletes’ sponsorships (BBC, Bill Wilson, 2016). For the first time, athletes such as Bolt, Missy Franklin and Sir Bradley Wiggins can feature with brands who are not official Olympic sponsors.

The blanket ban blocked ads running before and during the games. As a result of this, many athletes could not capitalise on the exposure at 2012 London Olympics. However, with changes to the rules and relaxation of sponsorship rule 40 for the Rio games, as long as advertising campaigns ticked two factors they had the go-ahead to continue throughout the duration of Rio 2016 – something unheard of before. The ad had to be running by 27th of March and been approved by their associated Olympic country association.

Level Up Marketing – Our Gold Level Advertising Award

We have compiled some of our favourite ads. These ads have taken this opportunity and shot off the starting line with a bang:

Under Armour’s – Rule Yourself – Michael Phelp

Under Armour have hit the nail on the head as ‘New Data’ from Unruly shows the Phelps Under Armour spot is now the second most shared Olympics ad for 2016, (Adweek, 2016). Focusing on millennial men its captured inspiration showing the grueling training Michael Phelps takes on.

GoPro – Finding Missy Series

Another winner in our book is GoPro: Finding Missy – Series Trailer.  A two part trailer captures Missy training and daily life with family as she prepares for her next competition (*coughOlympics).

With a viewing of 175 Million views on youtube, the brand has taken what’s so special about GoPro and show the interpersonal side of Finding Missy.


We’re The Superhumans | Rio Paralympics 2016

Last but not least, another Gold medal winner is Channel’s 4 Superhumans campaign. Growing from the success of the previous Paralympics, its taken a step back from the grit and become universally positive to having no limits.

It’s definitely an upbeat effective video as it presents non-athletes from around the world. As always, causing the hype everyone was seeking for before the games kick off.

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