Sponsors Coca-Cola, Omega grab marketing opportunity at Pyeongchang
Posted on Feb 26, 2018 by Brad McCabe

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that ended Sunday offered a golden opportunity for companies to advertise their products and boost their brand image.

One of the sponsors of the games, Coca-Cola grabbed attention for its concerted marketing efforts. It set up 50 vending machines in the Olympic Village that hosted more than 20,000 athletes. The company gave these athletes keys that allowed them to get drinks from the vending machines for free. Coca-Cola also established so-called "experience zones" in Hongdae, Seoul and Gangneung for the duration of the games where people could carve their names on bottles of the company's drinks.

Its TV commercial has also created some buzz in the host country. In it, a South Korea hockey player frisks his Canadian counterpart for a bottle of Coca-Cola. They then jump and run for the drink only to find that their colleagues were already enjoying plentiful bottles of Coke in the locker room.

Swiss watchmaker Omega was also an official partner and ran lots of newpaper ads over the last few weeks, including one featuring South Korean figure skating legend Kim Yuna.

U.S. tech company Intel, also an Olympic partner, impressed by performing drone shows at the opening and closing ceremonies. Intel said that it was moving into fifth-generation and drone technologies.

Chinese internet conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding, another Olympic partner, also opened a large-scale exhibition center in Gangneung, one of key venues of the games. Chairman Jack Ma visited the site and talked to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach about the company's products and services.

But another sponsor, Samsung Electronics, was relatively quiet during the games, as the company continued to battle with negative publicity due to recent troubles. Its leader and Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was slapped with a suspended two-and-half-year jail sentence earlier this month for giving 3.6 billion won ($3.3 million) to Choi Soon-sil, a lifetime friend of former president Park Geun-hye, as a sports sponsorship for Choi's daughter, a budding equestrian. None of Samsung's high-ranking executives attended the opening or closing ceremony of the games.

"Samsung may have regretted losing the chance for marketing due to absence of the owner family," said Kim Jae-in, a director at Korea Public Relations Association. "It was a good opportunity that a consumer company should have seized."

South Korea's state-run railway company Korail contributed to the Olympics by setting up a new bullet train line connecting Seoul to Pyeongchang and Gangneung, but the 3.7 trillion won ($3.4 million) in construction costs could weigh heavily on the company.

It takes two hours to reach Gangneung from Seoul through the new 284km line, making the journey shorter by one to two hours in comparison with travel by car or bus. The line was open late December, ahead of the Feb. 9 opening of the Winter Olympic Games.

The bullet train runs at a speed of up to 250km per hour, although it has a maximum speed of 300km per hour. This is because it cuts through the mountainous Gangwon Province area. The journey involved going through 34 tunnels and over 47 bridges.

Article by Kim Jaewon as posted to Nikkei Asian Review

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