The sporting event that shall not be named and 5 beartraps to writing content on trending topics
Just like the fear of bringing Lord Voldemort back to life with a simple mention of his name, brands and marketers all around the world are hesitant to make any mention of ‘that major international sporting event that only happens every four years and that’s happening right now somewhere in South America’.
New rules around writing content for the web and participating in social media conversations mean that brands have to be increasingly cautious when looking to piggy back on trending topics.
It’s well known in the marketing world that covering popular events and trending topics is one of the most effective methods for getting your brand in front of your target audience. But thanks to pesky red tape like the International Olympic Committee’s Rule 40 you need to look before you leap (pun absolutely intended).
Publishers left, right and centre are still doing their best to get away with creating content that links brands to the IOC’s showpiece event, even if they’re not an official sponsor. Google, as per usual, is one step ahead and has developed a section of Google Trends that specifically looks at the Olympic Games (there, I said it).
In an official company blog post, Google said: “Throughout the next few weeks, Google Trends will give you a unique view into the games with a new Trends Hub just for the Olympics. There, you’ll be able to see which athletes, events and moments are captivating audiences—and searches—worldwide.”
Using these insights you can look at data like which sports or events are trending the highest, interest in different athletes at different points in time and the most searched sports by country. For example, at the time of publishing this article, basketball was the highest searched sport in Australia. Writing about a trending topic like this can help your search rankings and your social media visibility.
However, the IOC is getting stricter about what it sees as brands bypassing its official sponsorship programme. Just as spectators could find themselves ejected from venues for wearing the wrong logo on their T-shirts, brands that use content marketing to attach themselves to an event they didn’t pay to sponsor are well and truly in the governing body’s sights.
You might be thinking: ‘surely the IOC has bigger fish to fry than my little company blog’. And you’d probably be right. But, a letter from the IOC’s legal department is just one of the beartraps you need to avoid to successfully exploit trending topics. More on that a few more below:
1. Does the event have a strong link to your brand?
It’s all well and good to incorporate themes of popular trends into your content as a way of jumping on the viral content train, but if it really has nothing to do with your brand then it will come across as blatant piggybacking. If you’re going to cover major events or hot topics find a strong correlation between the topic in question and your business so that the content is still useful and relevant to your audience.
During Hurricane Sandy, Urban Outfitters sent out the below tweet in an attempt to jump on a topic that was very popular at the time (but for all the wrong reasons). Not only did it offend a number of people for obvious reasons, it also didn’t make sense for that brand to be joining that particular conversation.
— Urban Outfitters (@UrbanOutfitters) October 29, 2012
Newsjacking, as this method is often known as, won’t be of benefit to your brand unless it actually makes sense. Taking a random popular thing and jamming it together with your product or service does not equal viral content (although the ridicule and criticism may well go viral).
2. Beware using anything that’s trademarked or copyrighted
Using hashtags that have little to do with your brand or your content can come across as spammy, but if they are actually copyrighted to a particular organisation it could cause legal trouble.
While it’s great to join conversations on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram by using an identifying hashtag to accompany your post, you just need to be sure it was intended for public use. Certain logos and phrases can be trademarked to a company and if you use them in your content you could be violating copyright law, and they do have the right to take legal action.
The ‘games that shall not be named’ are a perfect example of this. The IOC released a new set of guidelines that restrict the use of certain phrases and hashtags from being used by non-sponsors and businesses, like ‘road to Rio’ or #RIO2016. Even using ‘Olympic Games’ in your content is off-limits. Some businesses have already been slapped with lawsuits after violating the rules and using certain Olympics-related logos in their own marketing, such as replacing the Olympic rings with something related to their product.
Other brands have been very clever in how they capitalise on the massive popularity of the Games while still abiding by the regulations. General Mills, a global food company based in the US, published the following video to YouTube which featured a bunch of rabbits “competing” in various events. The idea was to promote the company’s journey to eliminate artificial flavours and colours from their cereals… using rabbits.
Whatever works, I guess!!
3. If you’re not an official sponsor… don’t act like one
Some brands spend an eye-watering amount of money for the privilege of being official sponsors at various events, from concerts to marathons to GAMES THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED (sorry, I had to.) It’s important to be wary of adopting marketing tactics that appear to piggyback off their investment.
This can happen from associating your brand name with the event in a way that makes it appear as if your business is directly involved, or by using the events logos or imagery on your products. There is a big difference between using concepts and themes to influence your content and using methods that make it look like you are directly involved with an event.
Coca-Cola, as an official sponsor of the Olympic Games, has released a number of themed products and advertisements around the event, such as this video.
Apple, however, is not an official sponsor, but has been doing a pretty good job of making people think it is. An apple store located only 15 minutes from Olympic Park in Rio is selling a range of watch bands that come in 14 different colour combinations, representing 14 of the national teams competing in the games. While the watch bands do not have any copyrighted logos or phrases on them they are clearly using Olympics fever to push the sale of this product and Samsung, its competitor, can’t do anything about it.
Ready for rio ! pic.twitter.com/p8PKJ3o5Fs
— IamTrayvonBromell (@TrayvonBromell) July 21, 2016
Though it toes the line, Apple’s range does not actually break any copyright laws, although to its audience and other brands it is obviously capitalising on an event that it didn’t pay to participate in.
4. Weigh up the benefits
With every peak in trending content, there will always inevitably be a trough to follow it. What’s hot news today may not be so interesting by tomorrow. It’s important to weigh up whether creating content around an event that will eventually lose interest by your audience is worth your time to create it.
Riding the viral wave is definitely important for showing your audience that you understand their interests, can keep up with current trends and are nimble enough to respond with some great, original content. But make sure you’re also generating content that will stand the test of time.
If you write a piece aimed at ranking for keywords solely associated with the Olympics, you may find it loses its appeal as soon as the event is over and the search volume dips. This isn’t good for your longer-term site traffic and doesn’t add much value for your readers either.
If you do decide to write some content around the Olympic Games, work out a strategy for an evergreen piece that will still be useful and relevant to your audience even after the event has finished. The information you provide needs to be valuable to your audience regardless of whether it relates to the Olympics or not, but incorporating the Games into that content will help push it higher in search and appeal more to your followers on social platforms.
5. Think about your competition
Yes, it’s a fantastic idea to write about something popular like the ‘games that shall not be named’. The only problem is – everyone else is thinking the same thing.
Do a quick Google search for the headline or topic that you have in mind. How many results are returned? How many already cover what you want to write about? Perhaps you need to reconsider your angle.
This doesn’t mean you should abandon the idea completely, but just think about it in a different light. If there’s a unique angle you can use to introduce your content, or you have some valuable information to offer that will make you stand out from your competitors then go for it.
But unless your content has the right ingredients to be ten times better than the competition, there’s a good chance it will get lost way down in the search rankings or be overlooked in social media for an article that’s bigger, better and got their first.