Nike and Google are winning the Olympic sponsors race – even though they haven’t (officially) entered

Well, here’s a surprise. Advertisers spend billions of pounds on sponsoring the Olympic Games, only to find they establish almost zero rapport with consumers. Worse, many punters think the real sponsors are their iniquitous ambush-marketing rivals – such as Nike.

That’s the conclusion to be drawn from a survey conducted by Toluna in the USA. We quote chapter and verse from Laurel Wentz’s piece in AdAge today:

In an online survey of 1,034 U.S. consumers last week, 37% of respondents identified Nike as an Olympic sponsor, and just 24% said, correctly, that Adidas is one. That may be partly due to Nike’s success in identifying its brands with serious athletes of all types. Nike is also a master of ambush marketing, breaking a global campaign today — the opening day of the Olympic Games in London — that features ordinary athletes competing around the world in places outside England that happen to be called London. The campaign, from Wieden & Kennedy, is called “Find Your Greatness.”

Coca-Cola was cited by 47% of respondents as an Olympic sponsor, more than any other brand, but 28% incorrectly believed that Pepsi is a sponsor. One of the most-cited brands was McDonald’s, correctly named by 40% of respondents, but 19% of those surveyed believed Burger King is an Olympic sponsor. (It’s unclear whether respondents understood that marketers pay for category exclusivity and so Coke and Pepsi, for instance, can’t both be sponsors).

Respondents who identified brands as sponsors, whether correctly or incorrectly, were then asked if that Olympic sponsorship makes them feel more positive about that brand. Some of the highest response rates were for brands that aren’t sponsors — 54% of respondents said Olympic sponsorship made them feel more positively about Nike, 52% said the same about Burger King and 48% about Pepsi.

In one of the oddest findings, perhaps influenced by what a pervasive presence Google is in the everyday life of internet users, 16% of respondents incorrectly identified Google as an Olympic sponsor. And 60% of those asked the second question about their feelings toward Olympic sponsors said that the sponsorship made them feel more positively about Google.


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