Did you notice how many Olympic athletes were seen sporting fancy headphones as they showed up to compete? Although it’s not unusual for athletes to use headphones to get in the zone, what was unusual was the extreme popularity of one brand that was not an official Olympic sponsor. Let’s take a look at how one company scored hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of publicity and endorsements for practically nothing.
International Olympic Committee rules for the 2012 Olympics in London went to great lengths to ensure that the only brands and logos receiving attention at the games were from official sponsors of the Olympics or the IOC. They even went so far as to cover the logo of the toilet paper dispensers in bathrooms, lest anyone think that Bay West was an official sponsor of the Olympic Games. The cost of this protected Olympic sponsorship position is around $100 million dollars.
How Dr. Dre’s Beats slipped past the Olympic brand police
Early on it was noticed that not only were a lot of athletes showing up to compete wearing headphones, but many of them were wearing the same brand – Beats by Dr. Dre. It seems the good doctor had a well-organized strategy in place to ensure that his product received plenty of free publicity.
First, the Dr. Dre brand set-up a collection point at a private members’ club, Shoreditch House, located nearby the Olympic part in east London. It was there that athletes could go and pickup a free pair of headphones in their team colors. Word was spread by brand messengers to the athletes from the top 20 countries, as ranked by number of medals won in the 2008 Olympics.
Second, representatives of the Dr. Dre brand went looking for these athletes and offered them a free pair of the expensive headphones. These headphones, which sell in the $200 – $400 price range, received invaluable publicity as they were seen adorning the top athletes in pre-competition Olympic media coverage.
It wasn’t until two athletes from Great Brittan tweeted about the free headphones that they had just received that Dr. Dre’s carefully orchestrated guerrilla marketing strategy was discovered.
Guerrilla marketing is really all about achieving big publicity with comparatively little cost. That’s not to say it’s free or without investment – this kind of marketing is usually effort-intensive and is based on trading the company’s product or service in such a way that it gets a lot of attention – like Dr. Dre did at this year’s Olympics in London.