Podium-Worthy Marketing Strategies


A look back at the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games

After more than a month of thrilling drama, the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games concluded at the end of March. More than 3,500 Olympians and Paralympians from 92 nations competed in 100 events, fulfilling a jam-packed few weeks with memorable sporting stories and heroic performances.
For CSM, PyeongChang 2018 was our largest presence at an Olympic and Paralympic Games to date. We’re proud to have been involved in such a thrilling global sporting event, which also showcased cutting-edge marketing activity from some of the world’s leading brands. CSM had more than 100 staff on the ground in Korea working across a wide range of marketing activities within both the Olympic and Paralympic Games environments.
So, as the dust settles in South Korea, we’ve compiled a list of the “best-of” marketing strategies activated during the Games.
Reviewing both official and non-official partners, we divided our list into two parts: brands whose strategies were seen on the ground in Korea (onsite marketing), and brands who showcased their marketing strategies through media campaigns, social and digital, and experiential events (non-Korea marketing). With our vast experience working within the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, our selection process blended the insights of our in-house Games experts with an aggregation of metric-driven data reports.

Onsite in Korea

Gold: Intel

We have positioned Intel atop our onsite marketing podium for its innovative showcases throughout the Games. In the most technologically advanced Winter Olympics yet, Intel developed the first-ever drone light show at an Olympic Games, in which they broke the world record for the most unmanned aerial vehicles airborne simultaneously. Better still, they were responsible for the displays at both the Opening and Closing ceremonies, as well as medal ceremonies. Also worth noting, is that Intel created a Sponsor Pavilion showcasing the latest 5G technology, as well as other advanced technology such as driverless cars. The tech giant also rolled out an impressive True VR app, offering the first live virtual reality broadcast of the Winter Olympics.

Silver: Coca-Cola

We’ve placed Coca-Cola as the Silver Medalist for onsite marketing strategies for two key reasons: They had an interactive 15-meter tall vending machine at Gangneung, which awarded visitors who managed to force an oversized coin in to the machine a specially designed PyeongChang 2018 edition Coca-Cola beverages and souvenirs – a nice take-home. Secondly, Coca-Cola placed photo cubes around the Olympic Plaza, providing optimal photo-op spots to share on social media, which drew a big crowd as well. In Seoul, Coca-Cola placed another super-sized vending machine at a high footfall area near Hongik University, with early metrics suggesting roughly 1,000 visitors attended the site per day, spending an average of 90 minutes there.[1]

Bronze: Samsung

Edging a podium spot with home-field advantage was Samsung, who created some impressive activations in Pyeongchang and Seoul. Their spectacular two-story showcase at Gangneung included an interactive history wall, a design wall demonstrating the brand’s artistry and a craftsmanship zone. The highlight, though, was undoubtedly the six VR experiences on offer in the showcase. The VR experiences were always jam-packed with visitors and athletes during both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Our prediction of heavy traffic flow through the VR experiences was solidified by some metrics shared post-Games, indicating that almost 600,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, officials and fans visited the nine Samsung Olympic Showcases and VR attractions throughout the Games.[2]
With so many other fantastic marketing campaigns on the ground in Korea, we must mention the campaign Visa put together with their ‘wearable payment’ method. As an exclusive payment option at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Visa created contactless payment wearable technology to be used in lieu of credit cards, and when a purchase was made, a unique sound was made alerting all to the innovation.

Rest-of-World Activity

Gold: Alibaba

On the non-Korea marketing side, Alibaba started their Olympic partnership well, providing one of the most compelling off-site campaign of the Games. Intriguingly, this ended up as an on-site strategy. Alibaba created a campaign that supported an unlikely Kenyan ice hockey team in their dream of making it to an Olympic Games. In line with the brand message “to the power of small”, Alibaba took an amateur Kenyan Ice Hockey team to PyeongChang 2018 to inspire them to chase their dream of competing at Beijing 2022. This was a great marketing ploy - tapping in to the long established “underdog” theme associated with the Winter Olympics (think Jamaican bobsleigh team, Eddie the Eagle etc.). To generate a lasting impact, the journey of the Kenyan team was tracked through an Alibaba TV commercial series, watched by over 40m people.[3]

Silver: Toyota

Understandably, we didn’t see a significant amount of on-site marketing by Toyota given the Hyundai-Kia relationship with the 2018 Organizing Committee. Yet, they sure made up for it through their social media campaigns. Toyota created engaging content through its athletes, including Louie Vito and Ashley Wagner touring PyeongChang, exploring Korean culture and interviewing fellow American athletes. They created a fantastic series of media content, including inspirational stories from the likes of Paralympian Lauren Woolsencroft, with the hashtag #startyourimpossible. Toyota’s heavy media push started well before the Games, debuting its Olympic/Paralympic TV spots during the Super Bowl. According to Sportcal’s various social media reports across the games, Toyota had the top presence on social media throughout the Games - Over 12,000 interactions per post, and over 1m mentions across the Games.[4][5]

Bronze: Intel

Beyond their impressive onsite presence in Korea, we also saw Intel deploy a strong global campaign (mainly social media) focused on their VR offerings at the Games—earning them our Bronze medal for non-Korea marketing. Their “Are You Ready” campaign and #ExperienceTheMoment garnered substantial traction across social media – a global presence that was really volumized by its memorable on-site activations. According to PR Week, of the 18 million mentions of the Winter Olympics across social media, Olympic partner brands were mentioned 70,000 times, and a whopping 32% of those mentions were of Intel, giving them nearly double the share of voice of any other sponsor (Samsung 14%, Visa 9%).[6]
Finally, we cannot discuss Olympic marketing without at least mentioning P&G. The powerful “Love Over Bias” advertising campaign, with an overlapping ‘Thank you Mom’ campaign alongside, was on trend with P&G’s brand values. The stories detail how athletes have overcome bias and discrimination, growing up to realize their dreams.
We also appreciate the savvy non-sponsors that find ways to be unofficially part of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

Thus, we would like to recognize Red Stripe. The Lager company capitalized on a golden opportunity when Jamaica’s women’s bobsled team suddenly parted ways with their coach. Red Stripe stepped in to provide the team with the funds to carry on their Olympic campaign by acquiring their sled off their ex-coach and sled-proprietor, earning global news coverage in the process! The beer company created Twitter hashtags #RedstripeToTheRescue and #SleighAllDay, which smartly avoided any link to the team and any reference to the Games.
Looking forward to Tokyo 2020, we expect even more spectacular marketing strategies from official and non-official partners alike. The commercial activity already underway for Tokyo clearly indicates that many of the world’s biggest brands will be there in a big way. And CSM will be there in a big way too, leveraging our more than 1,300 staff to help our clients stay at the forefront of Olympic and Paralympic innovation, creativity and impact as the Summer Games return to Asia for the first time since Bejing 2008.

[1] Medium, 25 February, 2018 – “On the Clock with Coca-Cola’s Ricardo Fort” -

[2] Samsung Newsroom, 26 February 2018 – “Samsung Electronic Continues to Drive Innovation Through Cutting-Edge Technology at Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018”

[3] Alizila, 26 February 2018 – “Alibaba CMO on What’s in Store for Tokyo 2020, and Beijing 2022”

[4] Sportcal, 28 February 2018, - “Toyota makes up for low profile in PyeongChang with social media engagement”

[5] Sportcal – Social Games 

[6] PR Week, 26 February 2018 – “Which Winter Olympic sponsor led the pack in PyeongChang?”