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Going for Gold: How to Jumpstart Your Creative Olympic Campaigns

The Olympic Games are full steam ahead. What does that mean for advertisers? There are only a few months left to generate a campaign that will reach millions. Leading TEGNA marketers are here to share the best ways to run Olympic Advertising.

Meredith Cunningham Published: March 5, 2021
Going for Gold: How to Jumpstart Your Creative Olympic Campaigns image

The Olympics are unlike any other sporting event in the world. While our hometown athletes such as Sue BirdJohn Shuster, and Missy Franklin, train their whole lives for the opportunity to play on the world’s biggest stage, it’s also an opportunity for brands to be right by their side. 

TEGNA’s top creative talent is here to show you how to succeed with Olympic Advertising. Here are three tips from Janeen Vogelaar, Director of Marketing at KARE11 in Minneapolis; Wes Rodda, Director of Marketing at 11Alive in Atlanta; and Dan Meyers, Marketing Director at WGRZ in Buffalo.  

1. Running any old creative won’t do. 

“The Olympics are something special,” says Vogelaar. “The Games are full of moments that people talk about for years. They remember the time, place, and magic those moments made. Advertisers can be a part of that halo.”  

That’s why it’s so important to run new creative that will stand out. “Everyone needs to step up their game. Your messages are going to be showcased with some of the biggest and most creative companies out there,” said Meyers. 

Rodda meanwhile, urges Olympic advertisers to not focus their ads on selling a product, as tempting as it might be. Instead, the creative should focus on telling the story of what your brand represents. “I think advertisers need to be open to doing things that might be out of their comfort zone,” Rodda told TMS. “The world’s athletes will be coming together as the pandemic is hopefully winding down. There’s going to even more emotion this year than Olympics in recent memory. If your brand messages aren’t the right tone, your creative isn’t going to be effective.” 

He also suggests asking a few questions to inform creative“Aside from sales, what does your brand stand for? What’s the problem you’re solving? What is the connection the brand has to people? Is it that the relationship they have with their clients?” Rodda concludes, “Create a marketing message that isn’t about pushing a product, but creating a field.” 

Myers adds, “If I’m a home center place, maybe this isn’t the time to say we’ve got hammers on sale. It could be, but you really want to take the time and associate yourself with the Olympics, to show the pride that you have in the community and the pride that you have in USA athletes.” 

2. Making Emotional Connections with Themes of Unity, Community, & Optimism 

Let’s be frank, 2020 was awful. In 2021, the Olympics are a beacon of that emotional release. 

“You need to think about the mindset of those who are watching the Games. They want the optimism, the hope, and to cheer their team on – even if it’s a sport that nobody’s seen before. You know how curling gets so big every year?” says Volegaar. “I think that that optimism is an important thing to think about.”  

Rodda agrees. “With the context of last year, I feel like the message is inspiration. It’s hope it’s a better future. It’s unity.” Rodda added. “There’s just a feel-good electricity when you watch the Olympics, and this applies to brand messaging too.” 

“If the Games can be emotional, why can’t your brand messaging be?” asks Meyers. “Be sure to think about themes of positivity, unity, togetherness, diversity, and a quest for greatness.” 

One campaign that exemplifies these themes almost perfectly, is P&G’s Thank You Mom campaign that ran at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. In these ads, P&G celebrates Olympians’ mothers – the ones who had to get up for 5 a.m. practice, the ones who made breakfast, washed uniforms, helped coach, and cheered from the stands. 

“Most of the successful creative you see, like P&G’s Thank you Mom, parallel a local advertiser’s story,” says Vogelaar. “The ads show that they’re also the ones cheering for these athletes like their parents are, and it shows them as humans and neighbors in the community. These are young kids who have been pushing and fighting and trying to get to this end goal for a long time,” she says. “I think it’s a similar fight for small business owners who have been trying to achieve their goals. It’s very relatable for the consumer. They’ll think ‘I’m just like them. They are like me, I’ve got to support them.’”  

3. A little playful humor can go a long way

“What we know is that boring ads are pretty much viewed as distractions by consumers,” said Meyers.”You really need to break through the clutter and separate yourselves from the competition.”

With this in mind, a little humor can be effective for certain brands, especially if the jokes get into the mindset of what audiences are thinking when they watch the Games. 

Vogelaar said, “I always joke about the people who take up tennis after they watched a match at the Olympics or the people who haven’t picked up a basketball in five years. But after watching the Games, they go and play right away. Maybe that’s a fun thing that advertisers can play with.”  

Could a few light-hearted jokes be the way to break through the clutter? It certainly worked for KARE client By the Yard.   

“We love it when we have customers come into our showrooms or wherever they see us and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember when I saw your chair swimming in the pool.’ That’s always our goal, to create a memorable, funny, kind of, tongue in cheek campaign. We just create that moment for them and it kind of gets them talking and keeps us top of mind,” said Leah Steidl with By the Yard. 



Sports have the unique ability to unite and inspire people from every city and every nation across the world. At TEGNA, our NBC stations are honored to be the home to three of the most iconic sporting events – The 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and Super Bowl LVI. It’s three world stages, three amazing showcases of unity, triumph, and victory. Contact us today to learn more and be part of this inspiring journey. 

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