A Brief History of US Marketing at the Olympic Games - Carney
The Daily Carnage

A Brief History of US Marketing at the Olympic Games

The modern Olympic games have been taking the world by storm since 1896. This year has left the Olympic games sort of out of whack, but we wanted to give a marketing history lesson to you marketing geeks and nerds. 

A brief timeline of major marketing gamechangers:

  • THE 60’s | Satellite Broadcasting Begins in Tokyo in 1964 Games – This changed it all. The expansion of media carriage and coverage attracted more than 250 companies as global marketing partners.
  • THE 70’s | “Olympic Official” Products Become the Norm – This is where creatives got their gears moving. How can marketing be tied into the Olympics with products? Runners with motor oil batons and official Olympic coffee were just some of the nuggets of the 70’s.
  • THE 80’s | Global Audiences Grow in the 80s – TV becomes a bigger deal as viewer counts were getting higher every year. Advertising became more focused on messaging with themes of family, patriotism, and dedication. Athletes as stars was becoming expected.
  • THE 90’s | The Largest Broadcast Audience to Date – The Atlanta Games in 1996 would usher in a whole new age for the Olympics for the tune in (39.7 million viewers for ’96) and advertising budgets.  This was the first time the events were primarily financed with private funds. Partnerships were forming!
  • THE 2000’s | The New Millenium Sees New Brand/Athlete Relationships –
    Modern media romances set off with America’s very own Michael Phelps. Olympic advertising would never be the same. Brand deals with athletes also becomes a new norm. Ads with athletes for inspiration are now becoming more prevalent than general product placements.
  • TODAY | Marketing Becomes Meaningful – Heartstrings and hope are everywhere. The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games, moved for a global pandemic, changed so much about how brands are treating the Olympics. Partnerships have been disrupted, but the ads stand to be inspirational. Brands find meaningful ways to capture why we are in awe of the Olympic games and athletes.

For campaign examples throughout the years, read Tegna’s full historical timeline.


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