As the 2018 Olympics have come to a close, we can once again look back at one of the worlds greatest event traditions. Possibly the greatest, not only in terms of sport and competition, but also in respect to event marketing. Because the hosting of such an event sends a strong message to the world, about the countries’ ambitions, goals and plans for the future.
In our industry, the term ROI is one that is gaining momentum very quickly. Our clients are looking for the best value as a result of their investments, and very rightly so. And investment-wise, the Olympics are about as big as it gets; since the 1960’s, the average Winter Games will set you back about 3.1 billion USD, with the latest edition in Korea heavily tipping the scales with an estimated 12.9 billion USD (Forbes). The queue to get the nomination runs around the block for every Olympics since the 60’s, so the return on the investment has to be a very substantial one. Or does it?
Event marketing, and marketing in general for that matter, works in mysterious ways. Its desired results are not always as apparent, neither beforehand nor in retrospect. Of course there is the direct income, in this case the tickets, transport, hospitality and general tourism income. These aspects, besides difficult to precisely measure, rarely make up for the initial investment. As with most marketing investments however, the results one looks for are often of an intangible nature and are hard to define when planning an event. It is still often about a feeling.
The Olympics are all about feeling. They are about more than sports. The Olympics are a symbol of hope, companionship and unity. They show that man, even though competitive in nature, can show this in a sportsman- and gentlemen like manner. Amazing examples of this are found in almost every edition; The befriended pole vault jumpers Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Oe refused to compete with each other to decide who would take the silver. After Nishida was randomly awarded the silver, they asked a smith to cut bot bronze and silver medals in half and assemble the halves. These so-called ‘friendship’ medals, half silver and half bronze, are still a great symbol of respect in Japan. The famous boxer Cassius Clay, Mohammed Ali, threw his gold medal in the Ohio river as an act against the racial discrimination in the US in 1960. He received a replacement medal during the 1996 Olympics, again as a symbol.
These images and stories are worth more than any ticket sales, not only for the Olympic brand, but for the city and country hosting them as well. Pyeongchang, like Sotchi before it, is in desparate need for some brand boosting, and has very much welcomed the possibility of having it’s brand and country associated with friendship, hope, brotherhood and sportsmanship.
The Games provide such an opportunity, and boy have they delivered. It has seen the North- and South Koreans attend the opening ceremony together and has given birth to a personal meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. No such deliverables will have been mentioned in the event brief under ‘ROI’ before the Games, but yet here they are. Historic moments, forged by something as simple as a ski jump or figure skating competition.
In the event industry we should definitely embrace the newfound desire to match results with investments. We are looking for ways to do this and to create the biggest bang for each buck. But we should definitely not forget to trust in the effect that emotions and experiences have on our public. It can move them in ways we can not foresee, exceeding the ordinary sales boost by strengthening bonds with our brands with the most amazing results.
Come find us at The Hospitality Group Amsterdam or ‘s-Hertogenbosch to talk more about event marketing and ROI, or to watch some Olympic reruns with us.