Gold Medal Nonprofit Marketing

For all of us Olympics fans, Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones are front and center in product placement as athletes savor their get-psyched play lists before stepping up to the starting block. And all this even though the company didn’t pay a cent to get them there.

Instead of going head-to-head with the big-gun sponsors like Coke and Chevrolet, Beats outsmarted them by distributing the headsets at no charge to athletes in the Olympic Village.

Because the Beats did its research, and knew that Olympic atheletes use headphones to psych themselves up pre-competition, this technique was a pretty good bet. Indeed, athletes are wearing the Beats often and publicly, with the logos are seen far and wide (especially since these headphones were customized in national colors to appeal to the athletes, and Michael Phelps cycled his multiple pairs, including the ones in brightest U.S.A. red). Even the stringent Olympics branding committee let it go, ruling “there is a difference between someone using equipment with a logo and someone promoting the brand.”

The impact of this strategy is far greater than product placement, because it’s actual use by the folks we honor as stars. The Beats never could have outspent the behemoth sponsors, but they sure outsmarted them. Gold medal marketing!

How can you outsmart the competition or other obstacles in your quest for donations, volunteer time, citizen advocacy and program participants? If you do it right, in a way that’s original and highly visible, you’re likely to outpace the big guns.

How have you outsmarted the competition, or other barriers, in delivering your marketing and fundraising campaigns? Please share your stories here.

P.S. Get peer guidance on outsmarting the competition with the free Getting Attention Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom Guide.

Nancy Schwartz on August 6, 2012 in Strategy | 3 comments

  • This was really, really smart marketing. They gave Michael Phelps like 5 or 6 pairs — each with different looks. And, they made sure they had colors in all the major countries’ flags. 

    I also think there is a lot to be learned by nonprofits in this about how you don’t necessarily need the biggest budget or the biggest team, you just have to be willing to take a chance and get things done. 

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Exactly, Sue Anne! What do you think the response of many nonprofit leaders would be when asked to ok a completely untraditional, never-been-tested marketing approach? Many would cringe and hang back. This example is a good kick in the pants for experimentation.

  • I agree with Sue Anne…and when you have a really cool product (or nonprofit message), it’s a no-brainer that the receiver will take it on willingly. Kudos to Beats, makes me wanna be an Olympic athlete.

<< Back to Main