The Olympics are a major event that sparks all kinds of news coverage and marketing. Not only do the games give us a chance to see the best athletes in the world compete, but they also give us the chance to see the best marketers in the world show off their skill.
Online marketing has generated some pretty interesting case studies from which we can learn. You may not need to market on an Olympic scale, but you can learn from these strategies to improve your own.
Here are some of the digital news highlights from the 2016 Olympics:
Texts from the Times
The New York Times has managed to remain in the game even after print publications around the country have closed or shrunk to minimal proportions. One way that it has been able to do that is by establishing a vibrant online presence and exploring digital marketing techniques.
For the 2016 Olympics, the Times experimented with sending SMS texts to readers during the games. For readers, it was like getting an update from a friend sitting at the games.
Included with the text messages were pictures, gifs, emojis and text speak that people use when chatting with each other. The campaign allowed people to get real-time updates from the games while also making readers feel more connected with the Times brand.
Post Writing Bots
Writing bots are the wave of the future that make some businesses giddy and some writers absolutely petrified.
Esteemed newspaper institution The Washington Post decided to start using these writing bots for some of its 2016 Olympics coverage. It was quick to point out that it does not plan to replace writers with the bots, but it decided to use the bots to free up reporters to do more in-depth, high-quality coverage of bigger stories.
The bot, known as Heliograf, was developed by the Post’s engineering team, and it uses templates to create news briefs about event schedules, competition results, medal tallies and similar stories. Therefore, the bots won’t necessarily be writing news articles, but more essentially compiling data for brief updates.
If marketers could do something similar for their smaller, ongoing items like news updates and schedules, they could free up time to focus on more quality content marketing for other topics.
Of course, we don’t all have the budget of The Washington Post, so it’s unlikely that many marketers will be using bots until someone makes them available for the larger marketplace.
Push notifications are similar in theory to text messages, but they are less personal. They are also easier to manage.
The Guardian has been experimenting with sending push notifications during the 2016 Olympic Games to update readers about stories on winning medalists, hot news, fun reader polls, and more.
Rather than a conversation with readers, these push notifications were more like gentle reminders to come join the conversation. Some readers might prefer these the way you might prefer to be asked to join a call rather than to automatically be included in a group text that constantly sends you notifications even though you are not responding.
More testing would be needed to know if text messages or push notifications were the right strategy for your brand, and that would require a lot of capital. You can also watch for the results of The Guardian and the Times campaigns to see how readers responded to each.
Podcasts are not given a lot of attention in marketing discussions, but they remain a viable way to connect with audiences.
The Guardian also experimented with using a podcast during the 2016 Olympics, but it added a new element: Interactivity. Specifically, it asked readers to do certain things during its podcast, such as to run or walk a total of 26.2 miles over the course of the games. Listeners could then report on their experiences on social media or blogs.
This interactive element could enliven a medium that has always been passive, helping more listeners to feel engaged.
A lot of us think about how we would perform if we were at the Games — even if we aren’t athletes and have never trained for anything a day in our lives.
The Wall Street Journal tapped into this fantasy with its Armchair Olympian feature, which allowed readers to compare themselves to athletes competing in the games. Readers played a game to get their time and then were ranked next to the athletes.
Readers may not have had to work up a sweat, but they could still feel more engaged in the coverage of the games while also having fun.
You should think of ways that you can help your readers have fun with a similar interactive element for your niche. It doesn’t have to directly support your end goal — just make users feel more engaged so that your nurture customer relationships.
The Olympics are a master class in both competition and marketing. You may not be at the Olympic level yet, but you can learn from these masters.