Sponsors Chilling at the Cool Olympics

Ireland may have only a team of five out in Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics but to them it’s a big deal, and to the rest of the world it’s exactly that too.

Five days into the Games this week NBC, the biggest Olympic Broadcaster of them all announced that it had set a new record in advertising revenue for a Winter Games and was already through $900 Million in booked spend.

RTÉ has also been pleased with the reaction to the nightly highlights programme with last Sunday’s show attracting more than tuned in for the Allianz League Round Up or the NatWest 6 Nations show on TV3.

Before the games, the talk was of doping and the proximity to the North Korean border but once the flame was lit there was an altogether more ‘chilled’ vibe coming off the mountains.


Chilled might be an understatement.  Temperatures plummeted and high winds caused a bit of scheduling chaos but you know, nobody got too upset.

The commentary was all about ‘big air’ and stomping in the halfpipe.  Ireland’s own Seamus O’Connor came within one clean landing of a place in the Final but still can count himself among the top 20 snowboarders in the world.

It’s different to the high tension and sub-currents of the Summer Games and of much professional sport.  Losers seem genuinely pleased to see colleagues nudge them out of a place in the medals, really you have to see it to believe it.

That whole more relaxed sense of competition mixed with having a good time has also brought a warm glow to Olympic sponsors.

They are having a good time with their activation and are reaping the rewards.


Intel is on board with the Top Olympic Partner programme for the first full Games this time and was a key part of how we saw the spectacular opening ceremony.

A light show created by 1,200 drones in the sky produced the kind of imagery seen on our screens that took your breath away.  The fact that it was recorded during a dress rehearsal and not done live because of valid concerns over that many moving parts in the sky above the Arena could have mattered but actually didn’t.

It was spectacular, ambitious and breathtaking.  If ever you want a drone show to light up your confirmation party or corporate event, get in touch with the team at Intel.

Visa has been in playful form as well.  Their advertising is focused on the next generation of wearable payment tools.  You don’t want to be bound by a piece of plastic when you can pay using a pin badge.  And Morgan Freeman doing the voiceover helps as well.

Bear in mind the same brand effectively introduced ‘tap and go’ to the mass market at the London Games of 2012 and you’ll see that this is the future we are looking at.

Both of the main Snowboard events were won by 17-year-old Americans.  Red Gerrard managed top overcome sleeping on the couch after falling asleep during a Netflix binge the night before his final to land the Gold.

You see, it is different when the playing field is white and the kits are multi-layered.


Not as many people will watch the Winter Olympics around the world as will watch the World Cup later in the Summer or the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo but those who do are committed, relaxed and young.

That’s a combination that the big brands around the Games are very excited about.

It’s winning in delivery as well.  In the US again, NBC has signed a content agreement with Snapchat, putting exclusive live content through the social media channel in ways that have never been done before.  That in itself is reaching a new audience, and it’s younger than would generally be excited by the Olympics traditional strengths of tradition, endeavour and achievement.

The Irish team have travelled with high hopes but no individual or team sponsorship packages in place.

These Games have come too soon for the sweeping new changes at the Olympic Council of Ireland to have translated into a commercial partnership, but the overall mood at the Games will be feeding into a warmer reception for Peter Sherrard, the new CEO of the OCI when he gets his feet under the table alongside President Sarah Keane in the coming months.

Sochi in 2014 and Rio in 2016 did little to enhance the Olympic ideal but Pyeongchang is proving a surprising hit with making it relevant at the highest levels of brand marketing.  Olympic sponsorship income continues to soar, and with it becoming cool to consider again, that is, to use the street lingo of the halfpipe one more time, a stomping result for the sponsorship industry.


Sport for Business Coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics will continue through the Games, focusing on the commercial aspects, and supported by our friends at 53 Degrees North.

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