3 ridiculously good marketing tactics you can learn from the Olympic Games

There is so much to love about the Olympic Games from the talent and skill of the athletic performers to the headline-grabbing fashion on show. The Games also offers up some key strategy lessons that can be applied to any fashion and retailer business. Sports brands have used the Olympics to launch new innovations and technologies including the Speedo LZR suit and Chris Boardman’s Lotus bike, and they’ve used the global stage to help turn athletes into full-blown celebrities, with legions of fans who then help product fly off the shelf.

Here we look at some of the greatest moments in the Olympic games history and the key marketing lessons we can take away.

Nike’s “volt yellow” guerilla marketing- London 2012

running- olympic-games- nike-marketing

In the 2012 Games, Nike was not the official kit sponsor, it was in fact Adidas, but while Adidas decked out the athletes in their kit, the athletes were allowed to wear their own footwear. Enter Nike, and its debut volt yellow Knit sneaker. It was the most brilliant guerilla marketing tactic, masterminded by Nike ‘s global creative director Martin Lotti, and didn’t *technically* break any rules, becoming more memorable some might say than the official uniform that the athletes wore. It also kickstarted the mass market appetite for neon coloured trainers, a total hat trick for the brand and its Flyknit shoe, one of the biggest innovations to hit the sneaker market in recent years.
Marketing message: Bend the rules, don’t break them, and use your product to stand out. Nike might have initially lost out on the huge publicity that came from being the official sponsors, but it still found a memorable way to stand out, the colourway of the product was also so shocking, you simply couldn’t ignore it.


Florence Griffith-Joyner: the first “fashlete”- Seoul 1988

Florence Griffith-Joyner the first fashlete

With her incredible physique, six-inch nails and flamboyant style, Flo-Jo as she was known grabbed as many headlines for her on-track style as she did for her record-breaking sprinting. With a love of 1980s lace and a signature “one-legger” asymmetric bodysuit, Flo-Jo broke the mould by bringing fashion and glamour to the otherwise conservative world of athletics and sport. She was the first true “fashlete” and helped to change the world’s perception of women in sport.

Florence Griffith-Joyner won two gold medals at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, breaking the 200 metres world record twice in the process.

Marketing message: Showcase and celebrate what makes your brand unique, all the quirky differences and the unique standout qualities.


Usain Bolt: “To Di World” pose- Beijing 2008 


Usain Bolt’s To Di World pose was introduced to the world in 2008 at the Beijing Games when Bolt flashed the lightening bolt stance after breaking the 100m world record and winning Olympic gold. While the IOC critised Bolt for “showboating” and “lacking respect”, the rest of the world embraced the lightening bolt and a sports-driven photo fad called Bolting was born. Celebrity practioners include Prince Harry, who struck the famous pose after “beating” Bolt on a 2012 tour of Jamaica. His key pose also did wonders for Puma (his sponsor), this viral pose complete with Puma sneaker in hand, helped catapult the brand even further.

Marketing message: When it comes to picking the brand face for your campaign, make sure it’s a person who is brimming with personality. In the age of Instagram and viral videos, you need a campaign face who is more than just a clothes horse, you need someone who resonates globally and is not the shy and retiring type.

Want more Olympic Games coverage? WGSN Active Director Clare Varga talks about why she is obsessed with this global event and the impact it has within the active industry (from marketing to brand strategy) every four years.

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