Olympic Lessons - What Sponsors Can Learn from Rio 2016

Sponsorship Lessons from Rio 2016

As the weather grows colder, the memories of the Summer Olympics are beginning to fade.  The pageantry is over.  The venues are empty.  The athletes, fans, you and your attendees have all returned to their daily lives.  Before we leave Rio completely behind, we should look at some of the key sponsorship lessons learned from the front lines.  By applying these insights, you can improve your next sponsorship event.  

Lesson 1 – Focus on the “Right” Things in Planning

In preparing for a large scale event, we plan, plan and plan some more.  Yet, where you focus those efforts are critical.  The industry talks a lot about activation and VIP guest experience – but have you thought about where the experience with your brand starts?  If you are registering guests or VIPs, it’s most likely your event invitation and then your registration process.  

Invest time to ensure every guest touch point is easy, positive and aligned with your brand message for the event.  Also, leverage the information gathered during registration to personalize experiences for your guests.  This creates a once-in-a-lifetime memory and a relationship with your brand.  

Lesson 2 – Test

If you’re building software for the event, test it in realistic environments. Office settings rarely have the chaos and stress of a large scale international event, like the Olympics.  With my clients, I encourage them to test new software at home…with children…while making dinner…and the phone ringing off the hook.  (If participants did not have kids, their co-workers frequently offered to lend them theirs during the ‘witching hour’…for testing purposes.)  

In that simulation, you are somewhat closer to the stress and multi-tasking required onsite.  You’ll get a better feel for how the software / systems perform and its flaws.  You can then improve the system, so when you arrive to the event, there are fewer surprises (at least with your software).  

Lesson 3 – Flexibility

As an Olympic sponsor, change rules each day.  Guests plans change.  Flights get delayed.  Guests arrive with unexpected or different companions.  You need to trade tickets with other sponsors to meet guest requests…so often that you could almost start an exchange.  

To be successful and keep your sanity, you have to remain flexible.  In Rio, there were so many variables – like uncertain transit schedules, hotel room problems requiring last minute changes or unexpected local guests. The most successful sponsors were agile and able to respond to the situation, creating an incredible experience for their guests.

Lesson 4 – Onsite Preparation   

As a sponsor, you’ve probably done scouting trips to your hotels and the venue prior to the event.  The most successful sponsors in Rio sent a team shortly before the event to re-scout the locations and make onsite changes BEFORE a single guest arrived.  This prepared them for the substantial changes since they last scouted Rio.

Some of the anticipated hotel rooms were unusable and those guests had to be placed in a different area.  Thanks to the early onsite team, the guests never knew about the change.  Can you imagine one of your VIPs checking into an unusable room?  What does that do to their experience? What does that say about your brand?  

Sponsors had to work around construction and factor that into transit times and guest schedules.  Onsite teams were also able to work together with other sponsors on mutual needs, which is a considerable advantage in a time crunched situation.

By arriving early, you can resolve any onsite issues before your first guest arrives.  When they do, everything is ready and you are completely focused on creating amazing experiences for them.

In summary, Rio was a fantastic event for the guests.  By applying these lessons:

  • Focus on the guest experience from the first touch point to the last

  • Test your information system in a hectic, distraction-prone environment like the event

  • Maintain a flexible posture, accepting unplanned changes as they come

  • Send a team to look for recent problems and follow up with solutions before the guests arrive

You can eliminate some of the common headaches sponsors face and make your sponsorship a great success for your brand and your guests.   

Share with us:  What other lessons have you had sponsoring events that would benefit others, especially their guests? Let us know what you think!