Retailers Go For Gold By Evoking Olympic Games

More than 20 percent of online retailers have referred to the Olympics in their promotional materials in recent weeks. But unless they're official sponsors, they can't directly use trademarked Olympic symbols or even the word Olympics. So many have had to get creative, using language such as go for the gold, podium or world-class to catch the attention of fans.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And a lot of American retailers have embraced the Olympics as part of their online marketing campaigns.

As NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports, they have to be careful how they do it.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: You might expect that companies selling running shoes, or outdoor gear, or even yoga mats might try to capitalize on the Olympics. But Chad White of the marketing software company Responsys says it goes well beyond that. He says companies selling diamonds and computers are among those invoking the summer games.

CHAD WHITE: Retailers are always keen to try to be topical, and the Summer Olympics come at a great time for retailers because it's in between the 4th of July season and the back to school season, so there's kind of a little bit of a void there that the Summer Olympics fills, perfectly, for them.

KAUFMAN: But linking ones product to the London Games can be tricky Trademark constraints severely limit the use of words like Olympic or Olympiad. White says retailers have to get creative. And he points to an email from the makeup company Sephora.

WHITE: And the email is all themed around promoting items that are, sort of, the top rated, medal-worthy and world class, you know, borrowing a lot of language from the Olympics to ascribe to these products.

KAUFMAN: But that message might have gotten buried in your inbox. Chad White says retailers sent each of their customers an average of 16 promotional emails last month alone.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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