Brands missing out on Olympic search gold

Despite multi-million dollar Olympic sponsorship deals, many major sponsors and partners have so far failed to buy Google search terms relating to the world’s largest sporting event.

A study conducted by search specialists Atomic Search earlier in the week discovered that a single brand, Procter & Gamble, had launched search engine marketing strategies based on buying Olympics-specific terms on Google, such as ‘Olympics’, ‘London Olympics’ and ‘London 2012’.

James Dixon, managing director of Atomic Search, told AdNews: “The absence of brands in Google is perplexing. We anticipate over one million searches will be made for information on the Olympics and athletes over the next few weeks, which is a great opportunity for the sponsors to leverage their investment and place a quality message to the audience.”

Atomic Search’s investigation discovered global sponsors such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, and Australian team sponsors such as Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Coles, had not bought Olympics search terms. However, during the week a Coca-Cola link appeared in the paid search section of Google.

Dixon questioned whether there might be a blanket ban on purchasing search terms relating to the Olympics. “With so much invested by host countries and interest from other stakeholders around the world, there seems to be a near blanket ban around any kind of search engine marketing relating to the games,” he said.

However, a spokesperson for Sports Marketing and Management, the group responsible for the Australian Olympic Committee’s sponsorship arrangements, said there are no restrictions on sponsors buying Olympics search terms. The International Olympic Committee had not responded at the time of writing.

The reasons behind the lack of activation seem varied. A spokesperson for McDonald’s said: “This particular strategy did not form part of our marketing approach.”

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Bank marketing boss Andy Lark said the timing was not quite right, and that an “integrated campaign spanning TV, product and search” would launch in coming weeks.

“I really am totally surprised that search has been virtually omitted as part of the Olympic sponsors advertising strategy,” Dixon said.

The London 2012 Olympic Games kicks off 27 July and ends 12 August.

This article first appeared in the 13 July 2012 print edition of AdNews.

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