Social media effects for the side of IOC sponsors and for Olympian Athletes


The Alibaba Sponsorship

It passed under the radar but the Chinese e-commerce business has signed an eleven-year sponsorship with IOC. The beginning was with the launch of the first ever brand campaign in order to secure itself as a long-term global player. The title was “to the greatness of small” focusing on the underdogs of the sport world such as the Kenyan ice hockey team who are unable to compete. The idea of the campaign according to CMO was inspired by one of Alibaba’s values which is  the commitment to support small businesses in a competitive global marketplace.

One of the priorities is to engage young people by launching a global Olympic Channel that will combine also other elements such as music with Olympic news. Why did Alibaba choose Olympics? Firstly, because they are not well-known outside of China. It plays an integral role for an overall globalized effort and the “shared vision” about the role technology can play for sport. From the side of IOC, Alibaba’s positioning will help them shape positively the future. For them it is also a golden opportunity after the departure of McDonald’s and Budweiser.

The athlete side

As we live in the age of social media, athletes are able to make a name for themselves well ahead of Olympics and build personal brands. For example, Chloe Kim, gold medalist of snowboarding half pipe had already sponsors due to her personality and origins She had 15,000 followers on Twitter and now more than 285,000 with the epic tweet of being “hangry” after not finishing her breakfast before the competition. Although medals still mater, it is no longer the sole reason for endorsements but do not put aside the personality as well.

“But how smart, how engaging they are in social media and the image they cultivate is starting to become more and more important.”

Another example was Mikaela Shiffrin who won on Sochi a gold medal and now she won another one despite losing another one earlier on in the same games. But there is always a flip side when bad behavior is uncovered. Incident like Phelps smoking marijuana is still fresh.

The current environment allows athletes to express themselves. Although social media was around during and prior Olympics, the impact is greater this time from Instagram stories to twitter parlaying brand messages. It is a sign how athletes become stars quicker. There is no restriction on when to promote the sponosorships as it can be done all year online or throught events. It is IMPORTANT as Olympic rules as strict about what can be promoted given that they have their own sponsors.

Concluding, it is clear that it is early to define exactly how performance on and off Olympic stage is translated to endorsements however social media is a MAJOR KEY. We should not forget that influence and commercialization is part of their contract.

You can read more at our author’s blog here.