7 Brands Winning Social Media During the Olympics
The Summer Olympics in Rio this year are a first in many ways:
- The first Olympics broadcast in virtual reality
- The first time that South Sudan is competing as a nation
- The first Games hosted in a South American city
- The first American to compete in a hijab
- The first team comprised of refugees
How to Create a Conversion-Based Social Campaign
The Games in Rio also have the dubious distinction of being the first Games where the USOC and IOC have banned non-official partners from using Olympic footage and Olympic-themed content on social media.
Despite the restrictions, many brands are still diving in on social, and the best ones are focusing on what the Olympics are truly about: stories of sacrifice, unity, empowerment, hope, training, support, competition, determination, and success.
By concentrating on these stories and integrating them across multiple channels, the brands winning on social during the Olympic Games are using it to connect with audiences on values that transcend sport and the products they sell.
Some of the campaigns are touching, some are thought-provoking, and some are fun, but all provide lessons social media marketers can learn from, during the Olympics or otherwise.
Events like the Olympics are what Nike lives for, but it’s still important to understand what the sportswear giant is doing right on social during the Olympics, and how.
In its social campaign, Nike is highlighting its athletes at the Games by telling their stories of perseverance and celebrating their successes. The overarching theme of Nike’s content is the “unlimited” mindset, which stresses that people have the power to write their own future by embracing the qualities of hard work and determination to overcome any challenges.
Nike has done a great job of creating strong visual content that is engaging, cohesive, shareable across multiple channels, and united under its famous tagline #justdoit.
The campaign has also transitioned along with viewers’ appetites as the Games unfold, from backstory to celebration.
— Nike (@Nike) August 13, 2016
— Nike (@Nike) August 13, 2016
Key Takeaway: Visual storytelling. Social media is becoming increasingly visual, with each channel prioritizing videos and images both algorithmically and, as I am sure you’ve noticed in your analysis of your own social channels, performance results. Create engaging graphics and videos that tell your brand story and that can be shared across all channels: variations on the same theme.
The yogurt brand Chobani has taken to the Rio Olympics quite well with its “No Bad Stuff” campaign. The campaign not only promotes Chobani and its sponsored athletes, but also highlights Chobani’s brand identity of healthy living, clean ingredients, and a positive attitude. This identity is further woven into the message of how these elements help Olympic athletes and everyday people achieve success with the tagline, “You Can Only Be Great if You’re Full of Goodness.”
Chobani’s messaging in this campaign will live on well beyond the Olympics.
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) July 7, 2016
Chobani’s campaign integration, multichannel presence, and use of influencers and related accounts is stellar. Chobani has also used its products to provide messaging that helps advertise the campaign, encouraging people to join in on social and build user-generated content (UGC).
A post shared by Jordan Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) on
As the games have gone on, Chobani has also begun introducing shorts that are closer in tone to a Nike, Under Armour, or Gatorade piece of content to extend reach and relevance with new audiences.
— Chobani (@Chobani) August 13, 2016
Key Takeaway: Integration. Not only is integrating your brand’s message throughout your own social channels important, but so is supplying content to influencer accounts and utilizing offline mediums that build online engagement. These three elements will ensure that campaigns and your brand’s social presence are consistent, cohesive, and visible.
3. Under Armour
Under Armour’s vision statement is simple: “Empower athletes everywhere.” This sentiment is evident in its #RuleYourself Olympic Campaign.
In their Olympic social campaign, Under Armour has leaned in heavily on a narrative that boils down to: what you do when no one is watching is what drives success. This messaging can resonate with non-athletes, who often find themselves working out on their own, or even facing struggles similar to athletes’ struggles. While the messaging is comparable to others on the list, Under Armour differentiates itself by offering a grittier and darker approach to these themes.
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) August 10, 2016
The messaging, stories, and imagery used by Under Armour all fit within the empowering theme and, most importantly, are integrated across multiple channels with channel-specific content.
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) August 13, 2016
Under Armour also does a fantastic job of balancing their roster of sponsored athletes. Yes, there is a focus on Michael Phelps, but Under Armour doesn’t overly concentrate on Phelps; they created alignment with their non-Olympic athletes sharing related content.
Under Armour also scores big with a slogan that can live on beyond the Olympics and can be carried by its other athletes during their respective seasons.
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) August 12, 2016
Key Takeaways: Audience empowerment and campaign sustainability. Marketers should always take an audience-first approach to content and advertising by positioning their brand as a means for audiences to achieve a goal and better themselves.
As an extension of this notion, campaigns need to feed a brand narrative that is sustainable over time in order to achieve success. Traction on social is the result of a consistent and prolonged differentiated presence that needs to be maintained beyond short-term campaigns.
4. General Mills
OK, so this one doesn’t quite pack the emotional punch or narrative of many of the others, but it is without a doubt the cutest and most fun.
To promote the removal of artificial flavors and colors from its cereals, General Mills Cereal has launched its “Rabbit Showdown” campaign on Tumblr and across its social channels. The campaign takes its cue from the Olympic events and is a tribute to the Trix rabbit.
General Mills Cereal has created videos, Instagram posts, and Tweets for the campaign that feature rabbits performing Olympic sports like gymnastics, track and field, and diving.
The campaign also encourages UGC and audience participation by asking people to submit videos of their pet rabbits’ “amazing athletic talents.”
Does your rabbit have rhythm? We're celebrating the fact that today 90% of our cereals do not have artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources by hosting the #RabbitShowdown! Enter your pet's amazing feats at the link in our profile.
A post shared by General Mills Cereal (@generalmillscereal) on
With the “Rabbit Showdown,” General Mills Cereal has added some amusement and inventiveness to Olympics-related social media content.
Key Takeaways: Have fun and encourage participation. Some campaigns need to be serious, but there is always a place for inventiveness and fun on social. Every brand can bring a little bit of charm to its strategy when it is appropriate, and they can use that to encourage user-generated content. Don’t forget that social exists to show some brand personality, and it offers access to brands that had never been available previously.
Dove is known to make a splash with message-driven campaigns, and this year is no different with #MyBeautyMySay.
Although the campaign is larger than the Olympics, Dove has seized on the attention of the Games to extend its message.
Dove primarily ties in the Olympic aspect of the campaign on Twitter, where it is posting graphics of facts and quotes from media sources that are disparaging or judgmental of female athletes.
Dove is also inviting women to share their own motivational stories via the hashtag.
— Dove (@Dove) August 1, 2016
The intentional blurring of faces in the graphics themselves is effective in visually representing the messaging and also making the connection that the hurtful quotes relate to every woman.
The social media campaign all comes together at the “Have Your Say” website, which offers interactive content, statistics, and a list of negative tweets that visitors can click on to reply to.
Key Takeaway: Purposeful messaging. Successful social media campaigns have a purpose, and they tap into something larger than the associated brand. This purpose can come in the form of audience empowerment, social responsibility, or something else. Ultimately, regardless of the cause, have something to say and a story that mattes.
Google has been busy during the Olympics, as a search engine and as a content creator. On the content side, it has been pumping out custom videos and GIFs with facts about what people are searching throughout the Olympic Games in real-time.
The campaign is a delightful way for Google to tout its relevance as the top search engine and visually represent its value with interesting tidbits.
— Google (@Google) August 8, 2016
Google hasn’t been repurposing the same content across all of its social channels, either. Instead, it has been creating channel-specific content to tell its story in different ways.
It has also been taking to Instagram to encourage and share UGC to increase engagement and extend the brand’s playful tone.
A post shared by Google (@google) on
The social campaign further ties into Google’s 2016 Doodle Fruit Games, which show animated fruits participating in Olympic events.
Key Takeaway: Timing matters. Social is an always-on, 24/7 medium, and the best stay relevant with a brand’s content and bring their unique perspective to popular topics. Brands can also find success by adding personality and creativity to these pertinent conversations, topics, and events.
Oiselle is an example of a smaller athletic brand making a splash on social to strengthen customer loyalty. The women’s running brand has been able to accomplish this goal by utilizing hashtags to effectively take a stand against Rule 40 and the IOC.
Oiselle has been using the hashtags #TheBigEvent and #freebird16 to reference the Olympics and generate fan support for its athletes competing.
Fans, you are the loophole! Now and during the #Rule40 blackout period July 27th – Aug 24th, follow and share the love for these women and all athletes heading to the Big Event…with the Five Circles in the Southern Hemisphere. Use the tag #freebird16 to encourage their journey, share how they inspire your goals, and help fly their flag. Currently three O Olympians: @fastkate 800m, @yocorrofeliz Marathon (for Ecuador!), @michtacoffey Race Walk. Details plus rad fan-banners at www.oiselle.com/blog. #rule40 #freebird16
A post shared by Oiselle (@oiselle) on
Oiselle also started with a strong hashtag game even before the Olympics began by using specific ones to follow its runners’ journeys over the past few weeks, such as #flywithkate to track Kate Grace as she qualified for Rio.
Due to its unwavering support of its athletes, many are returning the favor, as are their fans. As a result, these groups are generating UGC and buzz, while the brand is building deeper emotional connections within important niche communities.
#Rule40 …while I still can, I would like to say thank you to @oiselle for believing in me BEFORE I made the Olympic Team and for continuing to fly with me on my #RoadtoRio Even if we have to fly in the dark our voices will be heard, our wings can not be clipped, and we will rise! #headupwingsout #freebird16
A post shared by Maria Coffey (@michtacoffey) on
Oiselle’s efforts show the power of hashtags — when used properly — to cultivate community support, align the brand behind a message, drive engagement, and grow brand awareness.
Key Takeaway: Let hashtags and influencers carry the brand message. Hashtags are a great opportunity to unify a message and tap into groups on social. An effective hashtag campaign utilizes a combination of broad hashtags to connect to larger topics with specific ones that relate solely to your brand. Influencers can also help extend brand reach and hashtag usage. These people don’t have to be big celebrities, either — people with strong ties and impact within micro-communities and niches are much more powerful when you are building brand loyalty.
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Jay Shemenski is a Senior Digital Strategist at Hill Holliday. He is a digital strategist with 6+ years of experience at brands like AARP and Harvard Medical School. His expertise is in developing comprehensive brand experiences and digital marketing strategies to successfully engage audiences and establish long-term growth.