Sponsors take low-key, local approach to Sochi 2014 activity

Winter Olympic sponsors are preparing to launch the main phases of their global campaigns ahead of February’s event in Sochi. However, unlike the global pushes seen in the build up to London 2012, sponsors are adopting a low-key, local approach designed to capitalise on growing consumer purchasing power in Russia.


There is just over a month to go until the start of the Winter Olympic Games and sponsors are building on marketing strategies that has seen them limit experiential activity around the relatively isolated Sochi as well as digital campaigns and in-store drives capable of reaching the country’s fast growing middle-class – projected to amount to 86% of the population by 2020, according to the Brookings Institution.

Russia has not provided a warm backdrop for sponsors, however, with marketers forced to factor in a myriad of challenges spanning terrorism fears and increasing calls for an Olympic boycott due to Russia’s controversial stance on gay rights over the last 18 months. Sources close to sponsorship activity in Sochi say it has been “very tough” to target Russians in the build-up to the event because it will not be “anywhere like as accessible as London 2012”. Travel concerns and ticketing problems mean there will not be many casual fans attending the events, they add.

Coca-Cola is hoping to reach more Russians by promoting togetherness and partnering with up and coming local Russian talent to create an anthem for the Games. The drinks maker, which saw Coca-Cola volumes in Russia jump 11 per cent in its latest quarter, is focusing its campaign on the country in an attempt to maintain the momentum and brace itself against a renewed push from PepsiCo this year. In-store and digital promotions will be rolled-out to other markets taking part in the Games in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, P&G has updated its Proud Sponsors of Mums London 2012 campaign in the hopes of raising the profile of its premium brands after admitting last year it needed to improve overall sales across the country. The company told Reuters it is targeting a third of the $500m (£304.8m) sales boost it got from the London Games as fewer countries take part in the event.

The campaign again marries competitors with P&G brands such as US Alpine skier Lindsay Vonn, who front its Olay brand’s ‘Look Winter Wonderful’ activity, while Russian ice hockey star Alexander Ovechkin will feature in Gillette branded activity encouraging men to “reveal their inner steel”.

The importance of accessing the Russian market has been further highlighted by the actions of non-affiliated brands such as Nike and Under Armour looking to ambush the event. A study by media tracking firm Global Language Monitor reveals five of the top ten spots are now filled by non-sponsors such as Phillips and Starbucks.

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