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Brands that were Olympic Losers

Let’s say that you just won three Olympic medals, two of them gold. When a NBC reporter asks you about your favorite things of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it’s smart to mention one of the Olympic sponsors. That’s a smart way to secure a sweet endorsement deal to carry you to the 2012 Olympics in London. Ryan Lochte did just that, sorta. When the world-record swimmer talked about his affinity for McDonalds, it reminded me of a Cheech & Chong skit. I don’t think the McD marketing department was lining up to sign the swimmer as a spokesperson.


Separated at birth?

Separated at birth?

Traditional Sports Marketing Powerhouses. Some say that Nike, Bud, McDonalds and many other international marketing powerhouses were Olympic losers because of their unmemorable performance. I think that Nike and Budweiser have set the bar so high in their past sports marketing efforts that a normal showing is a loss for them. True. An obvious loss for Nike was when Chinese track star Liu Xiang dropped out of the 110M hurdles, a race he was favored to win. Puma and Speedo out-performed Nike in the Olympics.

Boxing. What happened to the US Boxing team? Remember when the Olympics showed practically every boxing match? Boxing got knocked out by synchronized diving. Ouch!

NBC’s Online Sales Reps. Estimates from eMarketer says online advertising sales on NBCOlympics.com was only $5.75 million. To put this into perspective, NBC pulled in around $1 billion from TV advertising (according to AdAge). Why were online ad sales so low? The Washington Post reported that NBCOlympics.com had record visitors, but many weren’t video viewers (where online ad rates are highest). The Post speculates that one reason for lower video rates is that site visitors were forced to download Microsoft Silverlight software to see the video. That could be the case, but within 24 hours of the race, over 1 million online viewers watched the video of the US team winning the 4×100 relay. Another way to look at it is that over 1 million viewers watched the ad that appeared before the race video. Those are impressive numbers, and that’s just for one event in the Olympics (granted it was a fantastic event).

Usain Bolt. He is an amazing athlete. He has a bigger-than-life personality. That combination often produces wonderful endorsement deals. However, Bolt crossed the line from flashy to cocky. He scared off some marketers with his on-the-track antics. He’s still a golden athlete reaping golden deals, but could there have been more? Yes. BusinessWeek Online had another take on it, “The combination of Bolt’s tremendous athletic achievement plus his lighthearted ways were key in making a memorable Games — one that will go down in history as a great Olympics.”  I guess that I’m too traditional.



Usain Bolt looks around and waves his arms towards the end of his record-breaking 100M race. Photo: NBC




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