6 Non-Traditional Tips to Sell Olympic Sport Corporate Partnerships

USA Swimming SponsorsA recent USA Today article took an in-depth look at the sponsorship business model of the college football bowl games. While some of these bowl games struggled in attendance, the TV ratings on ESPN more than made up for large blocks of empty seats.

With 38 bowl games plus a national championship game with Ohio State and Oregon that set viewership records, most would think Americans would have bowl fatigue, but that’s not really the case. Even the Camellia Bowl featuring Bowling Green and South Alabama had more than 1 million viewers on ESPN.

The “Game + TV” model is simple and as sports fans and marketers we get it. That model has helped companies like Quick Lane, R&L Carriers, Famous Idaho Potatoes, San Diego County Credit Union, Zaxby’s, National University and AdvoCare become more recognizable.

However, the model for selling the Olympic sports is different. For those companies that take the time to understand it, they get the complementary nature of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the National Governing Bodies (ex. USA Swimming, USA Gymnastics, USA Track & Field).

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) has the powerful U.S. Olympic and TeamUSA brand and the NGBs have the athletes, events and memberships to drive a measurable return on investment even beyond Olympic time periods. Companies like AT&T, BMW and Visa see that and get it.

With the Olympic year in sight “next year” and the USOC nominating Boston as a candidate city for the 2024 Olympic Games, it’s an exciting time in the corporate sponsorship side of the business.

6 Insights into the Selling the Olympic Sports
As we enter the Olympic selling season, below are keys to selling in the Olympic movement.

  • Take the High Ground … the Olympic sports stand for something greater. TeamUSA leads the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLS, NCAA, NASCAR and PGA Tour in positive attributes such as inspiration, patriotism, dedication, responsibility, confidence, trustworthiness, relatability, approachability and authenticity, according to U.S. Olympic Committee research. Selling the Olympic world relies on making this differentiation.
  • Embrace Niche … A lot of sports properties want to be “mainstream” and we are always looking to grow, but the niche market of our property is one of the strengths for companies that know their market. I prefer to position it as targeting with loyal families with above average income.
  • Focus on Quality vs. Quantity … We bring a quality demographic beyond just numbers. For example, the swimming household average range from $122,000 in 2012 research to $148,000 in 2014 research per year, and 60% are more likely to trust our partners and 74% more likely to purchase from them when they support the sport. That further targeting reduces the focus on just selling “eyeballs.”

USA Swimming Sponsors

  • Focus on the Leaders Not the Followers … A key attribute of the Olympic sports demographic is that they are leaders in their communities. The phrase “influence the influencers” is cliché, but it is an appropriate description. In fact, 69% of swimmers say people come to them for advice vs. 39% of the general public.
  • Think Beyond the Sports Page … Olympic sports have the added benefit of being health, fitness and youth fitness stories. For swimming in particular, it can even focus on life-saving media stories beyond the sports page.
  • Focus on the Lifestyle vs. Just the Game … unlike other properties that are very focused on signage and individual games, the Olympic sports integrate with a lifestyle that is family focused. Events and the sport itself are driven by family participation and the family experience.

Olympic properties still have traditional assets “Game + TV” assets like any other property, but that is just the ante. The factors above differentiate our properties from the crowd.


Categories: Marketing, Olympics

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2 replies


  1. Gaius Publius: A Corporate Convention: "Comcast Presents ... The Democratic Party. Welcome to Philadelphia." | naked capitalism
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