I orchestrate BrandIndex's Winter Olympics consumer perception review in Brandweek

Who Were the Biggest Winter Olympics Advertisers?

March 5, 2010

With the end of the Super Bowl, came another major event where some of the biggest global brands spent millions on advertising: The Winter Olympics. Unlike a one-time football game event, these were long, drawn-out campaign sponsorships across not only NBC (which aired the games) but also MSNBC and CNBC. The good news is that most brands moved the needle in a positive direction, while only a few suffered a backslide, according to market research firm YouGov's BrandIndex report.

The Brandweek Buzz Report by YouGov is a weekly consumer perception report that analyzes the most talked about brands based on buzz: The scores are based on weighing positive and negative perceptions of a brand. A +100 score is positive, a -100 score is negative, and a rating of zero means that the score is neutral.

YouGov interviews 5,000 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of 1.5 million individuals.

Nike's Winning Streak

Nike’s chart-topping performance garnered the biggest buzz score jump of 9.2 points. The sneaker and apparel giant powered itself with its pervasiveness on athletic gear every time viewers tuned in. Nike’s last bet on an Olympic athlete backfired. In 2006, the brand ran an aggressive campaign dubbed "Join Bode," leading up to the Torino games. The skier Nike was endorsing, Bode Miller, was going through his heavy partying phase and was disqualified. This time around, Nike put its marketing dollars behind a campaign featuring leading South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na. The results: The skater put on an outstanding Olympic performance, won the gold, and Nike took home its own perception rewards.

Coors 'Canada Pride' Pays Off

Instead of advertising during the Super Bowl, the Molson Coors Brewing Co. signed up to be the official provider of the Winter Games. By playing up its nationalism with the “Made From Canada” slogan—emphasizing the land’s natural, clean water—two of its brands, Coors Light and Coors, connected with consumers, swinging their buzz scores 8.2 points and 7.4 points, respectively. Molson, the company’s original Canadian brew, rode the campaign’s coattails to a 6.5-point boost, putting it in the top five gainers.

McDonald’s Beefs Up Marketing
The official restaurant of the Winter Olympics, McDonald’s, rolled out a sweepstakes called “How Do You McNugget” during the week leading up to opening ceremonies. The marketing support continued throughout the games, when McDonald's ran its “Bobsled in the drive-through line” TV spot. Those McNugget-eating athletes helped the fast feeder become the fourth biggest Olympic gainer.

General Electric Shines
The "hometown team"—NBC network co-owner General Electric’s healthcare division—used Vancouver 2010 to launch the biggest consumer-directed campaign in its history. The estimated $80-million BBDO New York-created effort featured touching vignettes with doctors and patients, a social media component, and a microsite (www.healthymagination.com). General Electric jumped 5.5 points over the course of the event.

NBC Gets a Boost
Although not noted on the chart above, NBC's perception took a shot in the arm, and the timing couldn’t have be better following its recent late night talk show travails. The network made the biggest buzz score improvement of all consumer brands in the month of February.

Samsung Calls the Shots
Samsung’s new touchscreen Mythic mobile phones wowed consumers and boosted the brand 4.4 points. Samsung ran TV spots prompting consumers to watch the Winter Olympics on the devices. The brand also had a major presence on Facebook, where snowboarding halfpipe silver medalist Hannah Teter blogged about her exploits.

The Underperformers

While some advertisers didn’t stir their buzz scores in any significant way (Acer, Air Canada, Chevrolet), a couple saw the scores fall by the closing ceremonies. Panasonic, which took a modest 3.2-point drop overall, provided the games with cameras, televisions and video screens. Panasonic's Olympic pavilion, which showcased its FullHD 3D Theatre, featured a video of Sarah Brightman performing Panasonic's theme song, “Shall Be Done.” Coca-Cola’s drop of 8.4 points is somewhat misleading, coming after a huge post-Super Bowl campaign boost. If comparing Coke’s post-Olympics score with its pre-Super Bowl number, the brand shows a 26.7-point improvement, and only a 4.6-point drop from the night of the Winter Games opening ceremonies. Visa took the hardest hit at 13 points, but not because of its marketing. After improving 9.3 points during the first week, Visa crashed 22.3 points on the new Credit Card Reform Act that went into effect Feb. 15.