Road To The Olympic Games

Money at Play·Analysis

Let the Olympic sponsorship scramble begin

As the 2018 Winter Olympics quickly approach, athletes aren't the only ones busy preparing for next February. Olympic sponsorship rights holders are looking to match their respective ad campaigns with stars who fit classic marketing themes.

Brands looking to attach themselves to athletes who fit classic marketing themes

With his comeback from a devastating injury providing a ready storyline, snowboard star Mark McMorris is a marketer's dream. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

As the 2018 Winter Olympics quickly approach, athletes aren't the only ones busy preparing for next February.

Olympic sponsorship rights holders are looking to match their respective ad campaigns with athletes that can help showcase their brands.

Contrary to what many people believe, athletes in Canada don't really hit the sponsorship windfall after an Olympic Games. It doesn't matter if you win gold or break records because, once the Games are over, the money moves elsewhere.

Sponsorship dollars are only really allocated to Olympic athletes during and leading up to the Olympics. That means athletes' only real earning power comes now — in the months before the Games.

Look for brands to capitalize on these classic marketing themes featuring some of Canada's favourite Olympians:

The comeback

Everybody loves a good comeback story, and nobody fits that bill better than Mark McMorris. Look for the star snowboarder to be heavily featured as he makes the journey back from the devastating injuries he sustained in a backcountry crash this past winter.

Since he's already been preliminarily named to the Olympic team, McMorris is a low-risk investment for sponsors and broadcasters alike.

If a company is willing to take a chance on an athlete who may not make the Games, the best story might be Denny Morrison. The speed skater is looking to book a ticket to his fourth Olympic Games, but making the 2018 Canadian team will be a tall order.

Morrison nearly died in a May 2015 motorcycle crash that left him with a broken femur, punctured lung, ACL tear, fractured bone in his spine, bruised liver and kidneys, and a concussion. As a further setback, just as Morrison was making progress on regaining his form, he suffered a stroke. If he can do the improbable and make the Canadian Olympic team, expect his story to get some major play.

Moguls star Mikael Kingsbury has a shot to be Canada's first medallist in Pyeongchang. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

The first medallist

Sophisticated Olympic sponsors understand the importance of Canada's first medal of the Games. Global rights holders like Visa, P&G and Coca-Cola will activate their Olympic sponsorship programs in Canada by backing a few individuals as part of their larger global campaign, and those brands will look for athletes with medal potential — especially if they have a chance to be the first Canadian on the podium.

Based on the competition schedule in Pyeongchang, my money is on Erik Guay in the men's downhill, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters in women's moguls, or Mikael Kingsbury in men's moguls.

Women power

On the heels of the success of Canada's female athletes in Rio last summer, expect more women to be front and centre. Bobsledder Kaillie Humphries' quest to three-peat, ski crosser Marielle Thompson's attempt to defend her Olympic title, and the women's hockey team (especially in the absence of NHL participation) should gain some serious marketing steam.   

Big-name stars

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are back at the top of their game and primed to be the face of the Games for Canadians. With strong social followings, commercial appeal and past success, it's a no-brainer for brands to continue to align with this charismatic duo.

The new kids

Also look for brands to activate with some of the newer, more extreme Olympic sports. Alignment with Sebastien Toutant, Max Parrot (both snowboard big air and slopestyle) and Cassie Sharpe (ski halfpipe) provide a branded voice to a younger demographic with a heightened coolness factor

About the Author

Deidra Dionne is Director, Business Affairs at Rogers Media. Her unique outlook on the business of sport stems from her experience as a two-time Olympian and Olympic medallist in freestyle skiing aerials, and from her education and experience as a lawyer in the sport and entertainment industry.


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