Olympics Buzz Can Still Get You Biz

There is ample time for you to go for the gold in the small business arena.
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Soon the 29th modern Olympiad will be over, but that doesn't mean businesses can't continue to go for the gold. Without fail, the Olympic games are accompanied by large corporations pumping millions of dollars into promoting their brands, products and sponsored athletes. Savvy smaller businesses will ride this wave of interest and excitement the same way U.S. swimmer Jason Lezak rode the wake of his French competitor Alain Bernard.

"Given that the Olympics has such mass appeal, it only makes sense for any marketer to ride the wave of the Olympics buzz under the rules and guidelines of what they can do," says Howard Goldberg, SVP, Scarborough Sports Marketing. "Even if they are not official sponsors, there are a lot of creative ways to tie your brand into the interest level of consumers who are following the Olympics."

This year seems to have even more Olympics fervor than in previous years. Nielsen Online reported that

NBC's

Olympics Web site experienced a 641% increase in traffic in the first two days compared to the 2004 Olympics. Scarborough Sports Marketing estimated that 128 Million Americans tuned in to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony on 8.08.08.

So what can a small business do to find their own gold?

Embrace the Spirit and Trends of the Games

If you haven't planned ahead, pulling together events and/or promotions can be tough. But that doesn't mean there still isn't an opportunity. "The benefit of the summer Olympics is the sports are closer to the vest to the American consumers for their lifestyle activities than the Winter Olympics," says Goldberg. "Whether hosting a mini basketball contest, a half marathon, family relay bicycle race in your community, or creating a new sandwich offering, there are a variety of unique ideas that companies can come up with."

When seeking trends, listen to what sports people are buzzing about: gymnastics, swimming, track, etc. For example, if you hadn't already noticed, there has been a resurgence in 1980s fashion. If there was any doubt, Nastia Liukin's gymnastics all-around gold medal performance was executed in a hot pink leotard. Take note if you're a business selling sportswear. With all athletes, pay attention to their attire, accessories, warm up gear, and even comments made during interviews.

Embrace the Culture

China has been a growing economic power for several years now. U.S. economic consultancy company, Global Insight, predicts China will overtake the U.S. in 2009 as the world's largest producer of manufactured goods. The Beijing Olympic games, however, allows the world a peak over the Great Wall to observe Chinese culture.

From the street food to the clothing worn by Olympic helpers, Asian culture is getting pumped primetime in to the American consciousness. Finding the connection with your product or service is your first challenge. Fast-food restaurant Panda Express, not an official Olympic sponsor, has been promoting its Beijing beef -- even having it "compete" against its orange chicken. You have to be careful, however, of how you make the connection.

Perhaps most important is that your business must obey the "rules and regulations as outlined by the United States Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee," says Goldberg. "Just like any marketing/advertising campaign or promotion, there are very strict copyright and trademark rights that cannot be violated without heavy penalty."

Family Games

"The Olympics are a fun, spirited two week event that promotes patriotism, and living a healthy and active lifestyle," says Goldberg. "Nothing is more wholesome to tie your brand around that has such mass appeal and good vibes."

According to Scarborough Sports Marketing, the majority of American Olympic viewers are married men, and 40% have children living in their household. Goldberg says aside from the obvious products and services targeting adult males, now is a good time to promote products and services that are not for them, but for their spouse and other family members.

These Olympics have promoted a wide -- young and "old" -- demographic, from 16-year-old gymnast Shawn Johnson to 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres. Make sure your message and brand isn't missing this golden opportunity.

When asked about her Olympic performance at the age of 41, Torres responded, "You don't have to put an age limit on your dreams." For businesses, you don't have to put a size limit on your dreams either.

Steve Cooper spent over six years at Entrepreneur magazine and Entrepreneur.com. He was most recently the managing editor of Entrepreneur.com and was previously the research editor for Entrepreneur magazine. He has a degree in journalism from San Francisco State University and runs his own business, Hitched Media, Inc.