With the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games less than two months away, all eyes are once again turning to the global stage of Olympic competition.
For the athletes, that means competing against the best in the world for a chance to represent their country.
For the sponsors, achieving Olympic activation success means using the global stage of the Games to build business, protect reputation and connect with audiences. Here are seven steps to guide the process:
Step 1: Develop Programming Tied to Business Objectives
- Start by determining specific business objectives for the sponsorship that will guide all activity and serve as an important filter. What does the brand want to achieve? Increased sales? More inbound leads? New partnerships? Attracting new talent? That answer should guide program development.
- Bring a relevant cross-functional group to the table to determine unique programming that will stand out while working toward achieving business objectives. This includes a mix of PR, marketing, sponsorship and social media teams plus all agency partners.
- Before moving forward, pause to ensure the programming will translate well globally to all priority markets.
- Once programming is determined, align on key internal and external target audiences to reach – customers, prospects, partners, employees, etc.
Step 2: Create Narrative Tailored for Key Audiences
- Start with research to discover insights about key audiences to inform messaging.
- Develop an overarching umbrella message to guide all communications and serve as the connective tissue to stitch together a comprehensive narrative.
- Define narrative pillars underneath the umbrella message to serve as the communications roadmap.
- Create specific storylines under each pillar to bring the narrative to life.
Step 3: Assemble Stable of Internal and External Spokespeople
- Use business objectives, brand values and research to vet and determine which athletes to partner with.
- Build athlete partnership agreements to include first rights, content creation, media interviews, rights to likeness and moral safeguards.
- Determine internal spokespeople including assignments in each priority global market.
- Conduct media and message training for all spokespeople to ensure comfort level with the story, confidence with media and consistent message pull-through.
Step 4: Align Activations to Key Olympic Milestones
- Research and create calendar identifying all relevant Olympic moments in time to activate programming – events like upcoming Games, one year out, 100 days out, media summits, etc.
- Develop plans for each milestone inclusive of narrative, partnerships, athletes, spokespeople, assets and multi-channel approach.
- Assemble exhaustive list of assets and materials needed to tell the story across channels and milestones.
- Create a comprehensive story arc to ensure the narrative builds to crescendo at Games time.
Step 5: Activate Through Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned Channels
- Utilize rights, athletes, assets and narrative to tell high level story through paid advertising and experiential activations.
- Create comprehensive media strategy, media target list, media storylines and editorial calendar to capture a consistent drumbeat of earned media coverage.
- Amplify the story through social media content strategy, long and short-term content calendars, engagement strategy and bespoke content native to each channel.
- Represent Olympic sponsorship narrative through owned channel ecosystem of website, blogs, email and apps.
Step 6: Prepare for Issues-Rich Environment
- Conduct thorough research to identify all potential issues.
- Utilize scenario planning to determine response protocol and holding statements for all issues.
- Develop issues playbook to outline team, protocol, cadence, potential issues and response strategy.
- Translate issues playbook into social intelligence monitoring system to source, flag, escalate and mitigate emerging issues in real-time.
Step 7: Activate Games Time Operations
- Arrive a week prior to Opening Ceremonies to take advantage of pre-Games media window, walk media footprint, meet with key media and seed relevant stories.
- Navigate Olympic venue, media, credential, IOC, NGB, ticket, event and victory environment.
- Execute marketing and communications operations and issues protocol – including athlete performance scenario plans for earned media activation.
- Assemble and activate social intelligence center to inform content, conversations and issues management.
The Olympic Games represent an amazing opportunity for brands to shine under the global spotlight. Following the seven steps outlined above will put brands in the best position to use the Games to build their business, protect their reputation and connect with key audiences.