How smaller brands can profit from the Olympics

branding olympics

Italy’s bid to host the 2026 Olympics has piqued the interest both of sports fans and companies. While big brands debate the pros and cons of sponsoring the whole event or some of the more expensive competitions, smaller companies have much to gain by setting out their marketing strategies well in advance, to cater for the influx of tourists and professionals that such a historic occasion inevitably draws. Before deciding to take action, however, brands should be very clear about the goals they want to achieve. Corporations such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, for instance, have sponsored several Olympic games in the past and reaped considerable rewards in terms of stock market value in the short-term, while long-term results appear to be less significant. And while not all brands can invest millions of dollars (or, in this case, Euros) on an official sponsorship, there is still much to say about the massive impact that the Olympics can have on the national economy and particularly on the hosting city: within that context, both local and international brands can thrive and grow, as long as they plan ahead and settle on specific objectives.

The main challenges for smaller brands

olympics challengePrecisely because official sponsors invest huge sums in the Olympics, there are strict rules on the use or referencing of the Olympic brand by non-sponsoring companies. This means that, unless you are Panasonic or McDonald’s, you won’t be allowed to so much as mention the Olympic games in your ads. In recent years, rules have been somewhat relaxed, particularly for social media campaigns, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to set up an effective campaign without breaking any of them. Such rules include the limited use of certain words (“Olympics”, of course, is the first that comes to mind, but several sport-related terms are out of bounds as well) and a blanket ban on athletes wearing or displaying logos or appearing in ads of non-Olympic brands. Exceptions can be made for brands that apply in advance and satisfy the Olympic Committee’s requirements.

Market to local crowds, not tv audiences

olympics crowdsSmaller brands might still find it difficult to qualify and be approved for the kind of waiver that allowed brands such as Gatorade to sponsor individual athletes without investing in the whole event. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is nothing to gain by being present during the games, in the specific city that will host them. Marketing to local audiences, in fact, is a cost-effective way for small brands to ride the Olympic wave. When a city is approved to host the Olympics, the tourist industry skyrockets and investments soar in anticipation of the crowds that will be drawn by the event. Such crowds include sports fans from all over the world, of course, as well as athletes and their crews, managers and media professionals. This will inevitably result in increased foot traffic and an international audience to cater to. If you are a small brand, this is the crowd you should be advertising to.

Open a pop-up shop and go guerrilla

This is the perfect time to open a pop-up shop in the city centre: even if your brand is not yet present on the local market, even if you are currently not budgeting for a new flagship store or working with local distributors, you will still be securing a presence on the high street and increasing your brand awareness. Booking your spot in advance, in this case, is absolutely essential: pop-up shop locations will sell like hotcakes once the official seat of the Olympics is announced, and prices will inevitably soar. Even if you end up paying more than the normal rate for your location, however, you will still be able to contain your budget by saving on storage room and advertising. Instead, go wildly creative on your guerrilla marketing campaigns: find ways of surprising your audience, catering to different nationalities and crafting messages in different languages. Finding out in advance where the fans of certain teams will be staying, for instance, you will be able to plan “impromptu” experiential campaigns in the neighbourhood and draw attention to your product and brand, maybe even go viral. Don’t miss out on the opportunity of using public transport as your own brand stage: buses and trains are excellent locations for flash mobs. Even though you can’t mention athletes or teams by name, you can still target them by speaking their language.

Need help setting up your pop-up shop? Call us now!
contatta-smart-eventi-1 Are you thinking of organising your event in Italy? Talk to us! Call us at +39 02/97381544 or email at
referenze-smart-eventi-1 Check out our portfolio HERE.

Newsletter Subscription

Privacy Policy and I consent to process my personal information for promotional purposes, as stated in point 2) of Privacy Policy (required)

Related Articles

About author View all posts


She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *