Marketing to Women: Five Lessons Learned from Olympics

August 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

This was the Year of the Woman at the 2012 Olympics, and there were marketing lessons to be learned by all of us.  But just to pause and enjoy the moment.  Consider this:  Women won 2/3 of America’s medals in the 2012 Olympics. If US women were their own country, they’d have placed fifth in the medal count standings. Most attribute this fact to Title IX.  Since President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law in 1972, American educational institutions have been required to fund women’s sports in a way that’s proportional to the male/female breakdown of the school.

Importance of women as an Olympic audience.  Traditionally, the Olympics is the only major sports event that attracts audiences that are majority-female. The Gallup Daily tracking survey done by phone with 1,082 U.S. adults and taken Aug. 4-5 during the Olympics reported that  43% of women say they were watching a lot, while just 36% of men say so and only 30% of unmarried men.

Why is that true of the Olympics and not other sporting events?  Maybe we need a Title IX for households.  In a new study published in Communication, Culture & Critiquethey found that “Women’s TV sports consumption habits were more mediated by their personal schedules than by team schedules or TV schedules.”  It seems that women’s role in the household trumps watching sports.  And when they do watch, they like the easy to follow narratives that Olympics coverage is famous for.  And while Title IX has increased the number of female athletes, it still hasn’t changed the audience for female sports.  That’s why women’s basketball has never reached the same level of success as men’s basketball.

Marketing to Moms Still Reigns.  Most of us know that P&G has taken their Proud Sponsor of Moms to new Gold status.  Procter & Gamble is looking to generate $500 million in sales from its massive marketing push centered on Olympic athletes and their moms.Global Brand Building Officer Marc Pritchard said it was an attempt to build a “perfect storm” of TV, digital, social and PR activity around closely followed events. It spans 34 brands and 150 sponsored athletes, with the “Thank you, Mom” concept that was first executed during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics serving as “the glue that ties it together to do multi-brand activations within retailers,” he said.  Moms were actually the glue.  The spots were so likable that you couldn’t get tired of them.

The mobile Olympics.  The times have changed dramatically in just four years.  Social media and events have a symbiotic relationship.  A blast back to 2008 – the iPhone was new, the app store had just launched, and the BlackBerry was the most popular smartphone.  And there was no iPad.  So in this Olympics, social media was propelled by mobile.  NBC, the athletes, the sponsors and the fans were all sharing on social media.   About 50% of streams from NBC came from mobile devices.  Data released in August by Twitter indicates that there were more than 150 million tweets about the Olympics during the course of the Games.   There’s a great infographic on Mashable that portrays the impact of social media in this year’s Olympics.  Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt was the big winner, with more than 960,000 mentions during the Games. American swimmer Michael Phelps took social silver with over 830,000 mentions.  Gabby Douglas went from 20,000 followers to 686,077 followers on Twitter.

Immediacy of today demands “real time ads”.    Marketers no longer have the luxury of planning a campaign and allowing it to run unchanged.   Today, marketers have to be in the moment to capitalize on events and sponsorships.  And yes, it can be exhausting but it is important.  Did you see the Visa or AT&T ads?   Commercials incorporated footage from events that had occurred just hours earlier, including the American women’s victory in gymnastics and Sanya Richards-Ross’ win in the 400-meter dash. The trend in the London Games toward “real time” advertising were marked by quickly produced commercials that enable advertisers to leverage the Olympics’ most buzzworthy moments.  The advertisers enjoyed special relationships with NBC that allowed them footage to these magic moments.  Brands were able to leverage their ties to the Olympics and increase their positive public perception at the same time.

Understanding your target and the use of ambush marketing.  Nike did a brilliant job in creating juggernaut exposure for the new Volt.  How could you not see those ubiquitous neon-yellow Volt shoes.  It seems that Nike passed on the official sponsorship and went straight to the athletes. Because we all want to be like Mike.  Their original brand strategy has never strayed from that original Michael Jordan advertising.  According to Nike, 41 athletes won medals wearing the shoes as of Friday, including 43% of track and field medalists.  Most people will tell you that they think Nike was the official shoe.  Seems rival Adidas reportedly paid $155 million to be an official London 2012 sponsor.  And if the shoes weren’t enough, didn’t you just love the spot with the 12 year old from London, Ohio, who slowly jogs toward the camera as the voiceover tells us that greatness “is not some precious thing … we’re all capable of it. All of us.”

The Olympics have been remarkable for all of us.  It brings America together, it makes new stars, it showcases our grit and pride, and it teaches how best to market.  I can’t wait for the Winter Olympics.


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