It’s not cheap to get in front of the London Olympics’ estimated global audience of four billion people. Just ask the major corporate sponsors who foot multi-million dollar bills.
According to the Guardian, worldwide Olympic sponsors like Coca-Cola, GE, McDonald’s and Visa are paying an estimated $100 million for exclusive sponsorship rights to the three-week event. Tier two sponsors, known as London 2012 Olympic Partners, are paying roughly $40 million for the Games. Brands in this group include British Airways, Adidas, BP and BMW.
The Olympics are a big business, but that doesn’t mean small businesses can’t make a splash now that the London Games have begun. Here are eight ways to do so without spending a dime.
1. Encourage your audience to show its allegiance.
There are two Westfield shopping centers in London—one on the east side of town and one on the west side. Westfield asked its audience to support the location they prefer on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. It’s creating a lot of buzz. You can do this too, and you don’t have to be an Olympic sponsor—or even in London—to do so.
Get in the spirit of the games and ask your audience to pick between swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, or ask them to pledge allegiance to the country they’re rooting for. It will engage and activate your base, and can even help it grow.
2. Create a game for your audience.
To engage its audience and support the Paralympic games, Sainsbury created a digital soccer game where players see the challenges of playing a sport with a disability. Without getting too technical, you can create an engaging game, too. It could be anything, like a fun video contest or a referral contest with your current customers. It just needs to relate to your business, tie in with the Olympics, and be enticing enough for people to play.
3. Activate your fan base with apps.
To go along with its tear-jerking “Thank You, Mom” TV ad, Proctor & Gamble used a Facebook app that allows fans to write thank-you notes to their moms. This campaign integration is fantastic—we’ll see more of that later—but the idea is to get your fans involved with Facebook apps.
4. Tweet in real time.
Throughout the Olympics, Nike will send out promoted tweets as major events happen. The tweets will piggyback on these events—much like newsjacking—and will include links to Nike content and promotions.
You can take a similar course of action without spending money on promoted tweets. Comment on a big story that happens in London and link to a piece of your own relevant content. It can bring your business a lot of new followers and traffic.
5. Newsjack the Olympics in email campaigns.
Emails that mention the Olympics in the subject line have seen a 16 percent increase in open rates. Why not center your next email promotion around the games? By newsjacking the Olympics, you can stand out in crowded inboxes and potentially attract more customers.
6. Create an Olympics hashtag for your brand.
All you have to do is choose a clever hashtag that coincides with your business’ Olympics campaign, and use it in all of your Olympics-related tweets. Your followers will catch on, their followers will catch on, and before you know it, you’re creating major buzz.
7. Integrate campaigns across multiple channels.
Visa’s “Go World, Global Cheer” campaign started as a TV advertisement, but that was just the beginning. Visa is promoting it on all of its social media channels and with digital advertising campaigns worldwide. This is a top marketing strategy for any business, even if you don’t have the funds for a major TV ad spot.
Whether your campaign is an Olympic-related YouTube video or Facebook app, you can promote it across every channel—blogs, social channels, emails, etc.—and create a lot of awareness and buzz for your products.
8. Host an Olympics event and broadcast it via Twitter or Facebook.
Yahoo and Eurosport.com are hosting the Heineken Fan Hub throughout the London Games. Heineken tweets from the event and, in doing so, makes followers feel like they’re in London.
You can do the same, but you don’t have to host your event from the Olympics. Host an Olympics viewing party—or office Olympics, if you’re so inclined—with your fans, followers and customers. Then, tweet or post photos, videos and updates from the event. This is an opportunity to engage your entire fan base. Don’t miss it!
Frank Salatto is a writer at Vocus, where a version of this article originally appeared.