Olympic Level Marketing in 2021

People around the world count down to the day they are able to support their country in the Olympic Games. However, it was no shock when the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be postponed, but not cancelled. This left billions of people anticipating the magical announcement of the games’ new start date. However, this also gave brands and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) another year to market the event.

Digital Takes The Lead

During the pandemic, people were isolated. This loss of socialization caused the IOC to pivot their marketing strategy. The output became more “people-centric” and “digital-led” than ever before. Even though digital marketing had already made itself known, it was expedited. Without many people being able to leave their homes, traditional marketing didn’t make sense. 

Since COVID-19, the public’s digital consumption habits have drastically changed, and will continue to do so over time. We depend on our digital devices to stay connected with the outside world and our friends and families. Naturally, that’s how the IOC decided to reach the public.

‘One Year to Go’ Campaign

Based on the new consumption habits, the IOC created an entirely new role, Director of Digital Engagement, filled by Christopher Carroll. Carroll changed the IOC’s direct-to-consumer model to direct-to-people. His team had the responsibility of generating excitement in a world of uncertainty. The ‘One Year to Go’ campaign launched and Carroll and his team were focused on developing multi-channel content that spoke directly to the fans.


Carroll and his team jumped at the chance to utilize Instagram Live on the @Olympics account. With this campaign focused on being “people-centric,” they planned to feature live videos of Olympic athletes, where they would answer fan questions. The live videos offered the chance for fans to feel connected to the athletes, and make the overall experience more personal. Murakami Mai, Simone Biles, and Uchimura Kohei were a few of the many Olympians that participated in these live chats. 

The primary @Olympics account also makes a point to regularly post participant profiles to shine a light on various sports while amplifying its latest news content. This is buzz-building content that has the direct-to-people model at its core. 


The @Olympics account teamed up with different past Olympic Games host cities and Olympic Movement stakeholders to recreate the historical journey of the Olympic Flame on Twitter. The flame serves as a symbol of solidarity, diversity, and hope within the Olympic Movement, and around the world.

On July 23, 2021, Twitter users will also get their own personalized Olympic flame experience. When a user posts a tweet tagging the @Olympics account, and uses #StrongerTogether with a fire emoji, they will get a surprise video featuring one of the Olympic cauldron lighting ceremonies from one of the past Games! This feature showcases another way digital marketing can bring people together to connect on a common goal. 


Of course the @Olympics TikTok account is posting content regularly, but the IOC engagement team is utilizing the Olympic athlete’s massive social reach. Many of the athletes are avid TikTokers and they give you the inside scoop on everything happening in the Olympic Village, i.e. the cardboard beds

The trending posts about the Olympic Village using cardboard beds for their athletes has created a viral wildfire! The U.S. women’s rugby team showed how sturdy the beds actually are in one of Ilona Maher’s TikToks. This video has more than a million likes. The actual @Olympic account posted a parody TikTok trying to explain that they chose cardboard beds because they are more sustainable. These spin-off videos lead to the Olympic Games staying top of mind for millions.

Sponsored Brands

The IOC were not the only ones who had to pivot to a digital-focused strategy – brands who sponsor the Olympic Games also had to come up with new strategies. Prime example? Airbnb. Airbnb stepped up to the plate with a digital-first initiative that revolved around their passion for the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Airbnb hosted their own online festival with a dedicated space on their website offering exclusive event content, as well as a continual lineup of personalized virtual experiences with Olympic athletes. This strategy has kept Airbnb and the Tokyo Olympics at the forefront of the public’s consciousness. 

The Only Constant Is Change

Marketing is an agile field. The past year has truly put many brands to the test and revealed how flexible and innovative their marketing teams are. One thing we know for certain is that “the only constant is change.” COVID-19 reiterated that the ability to pivot quickly and be resourceful is an unmeasurable skill. And with that, we’ll leave you with a quote from IOC’s Director of Digital Engagement, Christopher Carroll, “Your training phase is only as good as your preparation phase. The preparation phase is only as good as the performance phase. And your performance phase is only as good as your recovery phase.”

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    Chase Mongeau
    Digital Marketing Producer
    Chase enjoys anime, hanging out with her pets and boyfriend, Adam, quoting Moira from Schitt's Creek, and anything to do with Social Media and Digital Marketing. Chase is our Digital Marketing Producer. She loves brands that zag when everyone else zigs. Chase’s skill set gives her the ability to help grow our client’s engagement and build long-lasting brands.