Going Big for the Gold: A View from Inside PyeongChang

Every two or so years, members of the Ketchum Sports & Entertainment team enter the “Olympic bubble” where we live, eat, breath, and sleep the Olympic Games – arriving well ahead of the Olympic flame that lights the cauldron and staying until it is extinguished. Hardly noticing that there is a world outside of the Olympic Games, we experience the sensory overload of crowds, lines, sports, media, athletes, music, food, culture, and new customs. Here’s a glimpse of what we are seeing from the inside at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018…

Not only are athletes breaking records, sponsors are too:
For the Opening Ceremony, new top sponsor Intel set the first world record of the Olympic Winter Games – a Guinness World Record – for the most drones (more than 1200) flown simultaneously, creating a dynamic version of the Olympic Rings. While the show was meant to be live, it did not actually take place for those at the Opening Ceremony so only those watching the broadcast saw the pre-recorded feat, which is lots more than those actually in attendance. This is one example of how, just like the athletes, sponsors are giving it their all to break through.

BIG seems to be the way to do it:
During my daily walks through Gangneung Olympic Park, not only do the ice venues loom large around me, but so do the sponsor showcases. They seem massive, larger than what I remember from other Games. Each with bigger displays, more fans experiences, more to showcase to fans and media, and simply more noise in an effort to grab the attention of passersby. A prominent beverage sponsor has a giant vending machine. Alibaba, a giant brain. Samsung Mobile (client) has six immersive VR experiences under one roof. What’s smart is that they all, for the most part, are tied to the sponsor’s core business, giving fans not only a reason to walk inside, but also great exposure to their brands.

Technology galore:
Within the last year, the top sponsor landscape has changed, and now suddenly it’s crowded with tech sponsors. What’s really interesting is that they are seeking to provide real solutions to the Olympic Games. We all know it’s not enough to just be a sponsor without an activation, and this year we’re seeing sponsors looking to solve problems, make the infrastructure better for organizers, the experience for fans better, and provide enhanced and engaging viewing options. These are real strides for the Olympic Movement as sponsors are coming in to drive this change by building true business partnerships, opportunities and cases beyond a marketing activation.

It’s still all about the athletes:
Some ads launched early, ahead of the Games and some more recently in the lead up. But mostly, the ads and content focus on athlete stories of accomplishment, achievement and overcoming obstacles, and that’s what the Olympic Games are all about, right? There’s been no shortage of those amazing stories taking shape here in PyeongChang. Even with weather delays and other small distractions, the athletes are not disappointing. And, more than ever, influencers are here to share those stories right along with the media.

Fun, local traditions and celebrations:
Have you noticed how they show love for the athletes here? It’s a little hand gesture that has been popular in South Korea for a few years (we saw some doing it in Rio). It’s a little bit like a snap, created by crossing your thumb and pointer finger – a way to flash a heart in photos. The athletes have started to do it too as a replacement for the more common cupping of hands into a heart. It’s a small but incredible thing to see a local way to show love, thanks and appreciation spread throughout the world. I’m also really looking forward to The Fire Art Festa on Gyeongpo Beach of Gangneung. An installation where massive wooden works of art from artists around the world can be seen and touched, with one piece being burned every Saturday night.

Within this new reality, our time here feels endless, like this is our lives now. We still have a few days to go and then just like the massive winds from earlier in the week that nearly blew some of us away, we will somehow find ourselves blown back into reality in what seems like the blink of an eye. Ready to get right back on board for the next one.

About Tamara Jacobs

Tamara Jacobs is an SVP with Ketchum Sports & Entertainment. A global client director, she provides strategic leadership in public relations, sports marketing, sponsorships and brand building with a view to reaching key audiences by maximizing sponsorships and communications. Tamara is an Olympic and golf expert that has led award-winning client programs to help brands achieve and exceed their goals, in particular within the Olympic Games space.