The United States Olympic Committee’s 100 Days Out celebration leading into the 2014 Olympic Winter Games is a great example of what I call “Blowfish Marketing.” As a blowfish makes itself bigger to ward off attackers, marketing properties can similarly create assets that defy their size and become great platforms. While a blowfish uses puffing up as a defense mechanism in the ocean, this is purely an offensive tactic on the part of the U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC Olympics.
We are so accustomed to properties such as the NFL, MLB and NBA having hundreds or thousands of games and televised events which allows for a wealth of content. In the Olympic world, this isn’t always the case, so we have to manufacture marketing platforms where they don’t normally exist. Three of the nine Olympic Games I was a part of were on the Winter side including my time at the USOC. From my experience, the limit of marketing platforms is even more of a challenge for the Olympic Winter Games*.
Challenges for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games:
• It is a smaller event than the summer version in number of sports, athletes, attendance, etc.
• In my conversations with sponsors, they expect to see corporate hospitality travel to be minimal to Sochi, Russia.
• Consumers have a mental block that February 2014 is “next year” even up through December 2013. While technically accurate, it’s just days away at that point. This shortens the window of what fans mentally consider the “Olympic Year.” Yes, it’s silly, but I firmly believe our minds are wired this way.
• Winter sports have fewer high-profile U.S. Olympic Trials which shortens the window for promotional lead-in events.
Why the “100 Days Out” Celebration Works
Even with some of the challenges the 100 Days Out celebration is a marketing win. Here’s why:
1. The timing is now coordinated with the USOC, NBC Olympics and corporate sponsors such as P&G which creates a concentrated buzz and combatting the “next year” mindset.
2. Prior to the 100 Days Out event, the USOC also holds a Media Summit so media can get hundreds of athletes in one setting. It is the Olympic version of Super Bowl Media Day across multiple sports. In the past, journalists have traditionally held that content for Games time, but social media has changed that and now they are using it more immediately.
3. Launch events in Times Square generates national buzz, especially with corporate social media support.
4. Even though fewer fans might travel to Sochi, it has created a strong opportunity to turn what could have been a weakness into a positive for domestic sponsor activation
5. The 100 Days Out concept is simple and doesn’t require explanation.
Promotions like 100 Days Out have become the standard in Olympic lead-in promotions and are great examples of taking simple milestones and blowing them up into simple, yet effective marketing platforms.
* Here is a small piece of Olympic-terminology trivia … the correct way to refer to the “Winter Olympics” is actually the “Olympic Winter Games.” The summer version is simply called the “Olympic Games.” The term “Olympics” is actually slang.