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Super Bowl vs. Olympics: Discerning the Marketing Differences
by Prof. Michael R. Czinkota
2014-01-20 12:44:21
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Super Bowl vs. Olympics: Discerning the Marketing Differences
Michael R. Czinkota  and Charles Skuba


super01_400A week before the Sochi Olympics begin, American audiences will be snacking on Budweiser, Doritos and Pepsi commercials during media coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII.  Should they expect more of the same during the Olympics?  Not really.  Although the Super Bowl does reach viewers around the world, Olympic advertisers will be communicating with a much broader audience from diverse cultures who will bring with them a different set of interests and emotions. To persuade such a multicultural audience, advertising will need to seek commonalities of the mind and heart.  Global advertising agencies have the expertise to create messages that work across borders and avoid the danger of leaving broad groups of viewers bewildered or, worse, offended.

We offer five winning techniques (not exclusive to each other) for creative messaging to global audiences during the Olympics in national and global media campaigns. 

Universal Human Emotions

The best brands inspire and capture positive, if not joyful, emotion in their customers. Marketers know that emotion often trumps reason in purchase decisions. Dig deep into any customer psyche, whether of a business decision-maker or a teenage gamer, and you’ll find a bundle of emotions that are common to people across cultures.  Although there are cultural differences in what stirs emotion, some things are universal, like love stories and the pursuit of dreams.

For the 2012 London Olympic Games, P&G launched the global “Thank You Mom” campaign that celebrated the love of young Olympic athletes and their mothers. There may be no more powerful bond than the love between a mom and her child and that love is a universal emotion.  Whenever we show the campaign film in class, it’s guaranteed to start tears flowing.  And, P&G’s “Thank You Mom app” that allows people to thank their own moms crosses cultural boundaries.


Expansive Imagery

The film industry has conditioned viewers across the world to crave dramatic, expansive imagery. The most successful global films create a powerful impact in sight and sound. The Avengers amaze and inspire audiences globally with their technological and artistic power. The Olympics are a key opportunity for grand imagery.

Marketers regularly use striking visuals to capture attention but the bar is being raised. A dramatic recent marketing event was the Red Bull Stratos mission and the awe-inspiring free fall jump of Felix Baumgartner from his stratospheric balloon. Millions of people around the world have seen the video and Red Bull continues to reap global benefits from the event.


Inspiring Sounds and Music

Hand-in-hand with expansive imagery are sounds and music.  Music enhances visuals for dramatic and emotional impact.  Marketers must be careful with music selection. 

Coca Cola has long used “happiness” music to appeal to young people around the world. Coca Cola’s use of music and visuals in David Corey’s “The World of Ours” song for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil builds from the joyful 2010 campaign song, K’Naaan’s “Wavin’ Flag”. Naturally, if the music is great, people will want to share it.  Coca Cola, Facebook, and Spotify created a partnership to allow people around the world with access to Coca Cola’s campaign music.



If you want simple communication of an idea, it’s hard to beat symbolism. IBM employs symbolism to enhance and distinguish its campaign and product messaging in its “Smarter Planet” campaign


Product Demonstration or Problem/Solution

If you can show product advantage in advertising, it’s hard-working marketing.  The trick is to get people’s attention to your message. Samsung built in product demonstration for its Galaxy SII throughout its London 2012 Olympics advertising after getting attention through David Beckham’s wringing a gong with a well-placed kick.


Also, marketers would be smart to walk away from messaging that depends upon slang or references to national pop culture.  If you didn’t grow up watching American television, you might not get a lot of pop culture references that U.S. audiences instantly understand.

The advertising that audiences will see during the upcoming Super Bowl will be uniquely tuned to American audiences while that of the Olympics will be globally focused. We are confident that both will employ many of the techniques identified here.  Marketers are literally going for the global gold. For the audience, the Olympic marketing messages will be quite different from the ones of the Super Bowl but well worth waiting for.


Prof. Michael Czinkota researches international marketing and business issues at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He served in trade policy positions in the George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations. His International Marketing text is now in its 10th edition.

Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce and previously was a senior executive in advertising.


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Emanuel Paparella2014-01-20 13:33:12
How ironic: dedicated marketers who conceive of the market as a demiurge with a personality, of whom we have a couple in Ovi, are proud of their pragmatism but can however write a whole article on the up-coming winter olimpics in Russia without once mentioning the threat of terrorism and its causes. One is left to wonder on what kind of parallel universe thse "marketers" live on.

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