Can You Spare $300,000? 5 Marketing & Media Tips Inspired by Stephen Colbert’s Olympic Sponsorship

Here’s beginning of the coverage from Vancouver:

The US Speed Skating Team needed $300,000 to make their budget for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. In marketing terms, this sponsorship is chump change compared to a Super Bowl ad, albeit not as sexy as an award-winning, pricey 15-second television spot.

Where did the US Speed Skating team find a savior to keep them off thin ice? Enter Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s fake news commentary show The Colbert Report, to the rescue.

5 Marketing and media tips inspired by Stephen Colbert’s Olympic sponsorship

Why should marketers and media entities care about this relatively low cost Olympic sponsorship? Because Colbert turned his show’s sponsorship into a high profile media event while creating compelling content for his show with limited incremental investment. Further, it enabled Colbert to produce his show live from the Olympics. Here are five ways that Colbert leveraged his show’s Olympic sponsorship to expand its reach and increase revenues.

  1. Colbert engaged his extremely loyal followers who willingly raise their hands on a variety of social media sites, support an array of initiatives, and open their checkbooks for good causes. Colbert Nation fans donated an average of $30 each for this patriotic, do-good initiative, much more than many not-for-profit organizations request in their direct mail solicitations. Building this type of loyalty is important for any entity since these fans help spread word of mouth and tend to be more profitable.
  2. Colbert incorporated the US Speed Skating initiative into his on-going coverage including team member interviews and his attempts to qualify for an Olympic sport. (Bear in mind that Colbert is much older than the average participant.) This provided the basis for an on-going Olympics-related feature. As a marketer, it’s important to have content features that continue over time, such as a special series.
  3. Colbert attracted special sponsors that were incorporated into his Olympics-related content such as his antics. Since these television sponsorships were integrated into the show, viewers didn’t speed through them when watching the show on a DVR. Media executives can take a lesson from Colbert in terms of thinking about content and advertising integration.
  4. Colbert received extensive media coverage for his US Olympic Speed Skating sponsorship. Colbert appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, despite being a non-athlete, swimsuit-less and not necessarily eye candy. Even more amazingly, NBC, the US media company televising the Olympics, asked Colbert to join their reporting team.
  5. Colbert received global visibility since The Colbert Report’s logo was prominently displayed on an array of Olympic speed skating participants poised to win gold medals.

Colbert’s Speed Skating sponsorship demonstrates the importance of building and engaging with a supportive fan base. Colbert takes his relationship with his viewers a step further than most marketers and television personalities by his willingness to attempt qualifying as an Olympic speed skater for his fans’ amusement. As a marketer, it’s critical to consider not only what you’re doing to attract fans, but also what you’re doing to contribute to the relationship.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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