I have to admit I have been an inconsistent fan of the Olympics. There have been times when I didn't pay attention at all. But this year I'm watching and learning.
That's because I was so inspired by Louis Zamperini, a US Olympian in the 1936 summer games in Berlin, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II. I recently read his incredible story in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.
Zamperini spent his postwar life conquering his PTSD by helping troubled young people. Zamperini did not medal at his Olympic Games, but the persistence and courage that got him there also saw him through his horrible ordeal during the war.
Spurred on by the Zamperini story, I've been tracking the run up to the Summer Olympics in London. Naturally, it has tickled my marketing senses. I think that this year's Olympic Games have a few tricks to teach nonprofits.
Here are my Olympic marketing tips:
- Develop a pre-story. The Olympics long ago developed a great pre-story with its journey of the Olympic Torch. Each Olympics we are triggered by those first news stories about the Torch Relay. It's a wonderful way to get us to pay attention--hey, it's Olympics time--be inspired all over again, and join in the overarching narrative of the Olympic Games.
Other Olympic pre-stories involve the competitions that determine which athletes will make it to the big game; the preparation of the site, the personal stories of the contenders, and, for the US, the fundraising that supports our team.
Do you have a pre-story for your special event? Fundraising campaign? Run or walk? Think about the planning you do, the preparations, the training of volunteers, the decorating. Whatever you do during the run up is fodder for stories that get people's attention, rev them up, and build expectation.
People love "back stories," so don't be shy about opening up about the process of getting to your main event. These may not be big media stories, but just think of all your communication channels that can make the most of the pre-stories. You can sprinkle them around for weeks in advance, just like the Olympics.
- Showcase your heroes.Rethink the way you think of heroes. There are more of them than you might think.
P&G knows this and chose to honor the Moms of the Olympians. Their "Thank You, Mom" campaign is sheer wonderfulness, from the centerpiece video on YouTube that has garnered more than 5 million views ahead of the opening ceremonies, to a great Facebook page, the Thank You Mom app, and all the videos showcasing specific athletes and their Moms.
Just wait for the TV coverage of the games. With so much air time to fill, reporters will be making heroes of everyone...coaches, siblings, people working behind the scenes. And we'll love it.
Who are your heroes? Think big and small. Find all the little stories that, when combined, form a narrative of your cause, event, or campaign.
- Go Social. This Olympics will be the most social yet, according to this blog post from PR Daily.
Coca-Cola, for instance, has a FB tool that lets anyone help create an Olympic musical beat. You can also create your own personal tune. And Panasonic allows a sort of face painting with an app that allows you to upload a picture, get a "flag" treatment of it, and then post it on your FB wall or make it your FB profile picture.
But, really, the best action will be all the photo sharing, Facebooking, and Twittering by the athletes themselves plus their families and fans. London 2012 on Facebook is one place to find the athletes, teams, and specific sports so you can follow along. The Twitter version already has nearly a million followers.
The lesson for charities is to make everything social. Encourage participants at all levels to share what they're doing with their friends. Details that you might think unimportant may be charming or intriguing when sent friend to friend.
Don't forget to provide social engagement opportunities...sharing a photo on FB or your site, playing a game, or competing in a fun challenge. Lighten up, let go, and let the social roll.
Ok, yesterday the athletes started arriving in London. I can't wait for the games to begin. This year I'm engaging, start to finish.
What marketing lessons will you take away from the Olympics? What inspires you, or what just makes you yawn? Leave a comment.
For more about the Olympic Games, see London 2012 Olympics 101.
Photos: Olympic Torch, Getty Images; Moms Campaign, P&G