How to market an Olympic Bid City or an EXPO Bid City to win

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Posted on 2nd Mar 2012 by Scott Goodson in Case Studies

How do you market a city to win the honor of hosting the Olympic games? How do you overcome obstacles and win the right to host the world’s EXPO?

There is of course a tremendous amount of effort that goes into the marketing of a city to be a true contender for the Olympic games or to host the world EXPO. It takes an extraordinary effort made by politicians, city officials, leading business personalities, cultural elites and creative minds who have the ability to respect each other and work together behind an idea on the rise.

In the end the winning city needs a movement. And this movement needs to be perfectly crafted to appeal to the decision makers on so many levels. It is both a logical decision to award a city with such an honor. BUT it is a massively emotional one too. A traditional marketing message would be wrong. The messaging needs to be a cultural movement that will have meaning to millions of people for years to come.

As a city bidding for the games or for any major event for that matter, it is worth understanding the Olympics way of looking at the world. Of all the terrific global marketing movements out there, the one that I believe serves as perhaps the best model of all is one that we don’t tend to associate with marketing movements at all: the Olympic Games.

Imagine if you were a decision maker from the IOC or EXPO. After a while one Olympic size pool starts to look a lot like another, and one stadium or airport starts to look like another – after many visits and thousands of air miles, how do you help decision makers remember your unique city and why it deserves the honor to host the event? When the decision is to be made, you need to have inserted a memory aid into the minds of those who will cast a vote for your city. A message crafted for the mind but more for the heart and soul. A message of inspiration and wonderment, which reflects the values of the event the city wishes to host, and aligns to with ideals and inspires the diverse group of interested parties who all must get behind your dream. To win you need a Big Idea for the world.

I learnt this on my father’s knee, My father, Jack Goodson, helped Montreal to market EXPO ahead of 1967 and worked with many of the pavilions to help them market inside of EXPO. He was then asked by Japanese to help with Osaka ahead of EXPO 1970. These were the golden years of EXPO. The Olympics surpassed EXPO with the help of Peter Ueberroth and the success of the Los Angeles Games.

The crafting of the bids is an art form. One of the best in the business is George Hirthler who has led the successful bids for the Atlanta, Beijing, Vancouver, and Nagano. I had the pleasure of working closely alongside George on the 2004 Stockholm Olympic Bid where I was the executive creative director for the bid and George was the writer for the bid books. We worked closely as a creative team that also included Brad Copeland who is an incredible designer.

In my new book Uprising: the secret to movement marketing, I talked with Timo Lume of the IOC about the Gold Medal Champ of All Global Movements, the Olympic games. Obviously it is an international sporting competition first and foremost, but it is also a movement—one that began with an idealistic vision of bringing about change in the world, and one that global brands have been aligning with for decades. Baron Pierre De Coubertin of France founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894 with the lofty ambition of reducing military conflict through sport. Starting as early as 1912 marketers began to jump on the bandwagon. At that time 10 Swedish companies purchased the rights to sell memorabilia of the games, held in Stockholm. By 1920 the official program was so full of ads that it was hard to find anything of the games itself.

Now of course the Olympic sponsorship is a huge business. The global sponsor pays close to $100 million, such as the current global sponsor Lenovo. What the Olympics provides for marketers is a lesson on how to spark a movement vs. simply advertising, but more it is a chance to be part of something that has real meaning. And it appears to me that even with all the money pouring into the Olympics, the games have managed to keep the values and ideals of the movement from being overwhelmed by commercialism. When I spoke with Lume he made it clear that the ideals that are at the core of the movement—the ones instilled by the founders more than a century ago—have been central to the enduring success and growth.

There is the relationship with the host countries who compete furiously for the rights to the games and once chosen may go all out to create a huge national movement around the games as China did in 2008: the country spent an estimated $42 Billion to prepare for and host the games. As someone who has been a participant in the process of bidding to be an Olympic host city (I was the creative lead on the Stockholm 2004 Olympic bid) I found it fascinating to see the way countries try to align with the Olympic ideals while also trying to add something new to the movement. (Our plan was to create the first totally recyclable environment, fresh and green and back to the roots of the games. We lost to Athens, which had history on its side). So a big part of the Olympics success then is their ability to generate movements with the movement. In doing so they rely on the host countries and they rely on the business partners and above all they rely on the athletes. The overall movement has a lot of partners, each with its own reasons for being passionate and invested in the cause, but all of them dedicated to keeping the flame burning strongly. Talk about sustaining movement and taking it global—it would be hard to find better model.

Here is a look at the official Olympic Bid film for the Stockholm Olympic Games (see if you can spot my dog Zorro the black flat coat with the boat on his nose) as well as the films from several other cities. Enjoy:

The Stockholm 2004 Olympic Bid Film by Scott Goodson, Martin Stadhammarm. Directed by Anders Skoog...

The Rio 2016 Olympic Bid Fim

The video was directed by Fernando Meirelles, O2 Filmes.

Melbourne’s 2024 Summer Olympic Bid Film

Sochi Winter Olympic Bid Video

New York 2012 Summer Olympic Bid Video

Manila 2024 Summer Olympic Bid Video

There are many other examples out there for Toronto, Chicago, Doha, Brisbane and many more.

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