Five Social Media and Branding Lessons From the Sochi Olympics

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The following is a guest post.

The winter Olympics in Sochi have been a spectacle full of amazing performances, controversy and memorable moments. These events have had the world’s attention for the entirety of the games, as individuals from different countries came together to celebrate athletic tradition and international relationships.

The hype surrounding the Olympics was not limited to traditional media, as social-media channels served as spheres of discussion regarding the games. The way in which the Olympics were represented on social media and events from the games themselves offer important lessons about social media. Below is a list of five branding lessons that can be taken away from the Olympics in Sochi.

1. Keep an Open Mind When Making Connections

The winter Olympics in Sochi serve as a case study on what happens when a group of people with vastly different backgrounds, personalities and talents come together in one place. The visiting population of athletes, trainers, fans and other professionals created its fair share of memorable moments and positive takeaways in Sochi. Whether it was a coach helping an opposing athlete with a damaged ski or athletes working together to protect stray dogs, the Olympics demonstrated that great things can happen when people come together with a common purpose.

The world of social media operates in a similar fashion to the Olympics, as it brings together a group of diverse individuals in one common space. Just as the individuals associated with the Olympics helped one another and made new connections, social media allows people to build new relationships. Social-media channels present themselves as opportunities to form new connections and to discover amazing opportunities. You can never tell where a new follower on Twitter or a connection on LinkedIn can lead.

Building connections on social media can lead to anything from new friendships to job opportunities. It is simply a matter of putting your brand out there and seeing where these new relationships take you.

2. Hijack Trending Topics

With the entire world engaging in conversation about the Olympics, it presented the perfect opportunity for organizations to raise brand awareness and join in on the discussion. Perhaps the best example of this concept can be seen in the trending Twitter hashtag #SochiProblems. This hashtag was utilized by visiting journalists to document and share the strange and humorous shortcomings of the Olympic hosting effort in Sochi. Images of unfinished hotels, coverless manholes and other malfunctions became viral pieces of content on social media.

For the organizations that were able to leverage this hashtag, it resulted in a great deal of exposure. The Denton Police Department in Texas is an example of one organization that executed this trend-hijacking strategy to perfection. The opportunity arose when Olympic bobsledder Johnny Quinn was forced to break through his hotel’s bathroom door, resulting in a viral Twitter image. The Denton Police Department took advantage of this story, as they humorously offered Quinn a position as a door slammer with their SWAT team.

Johnny Quinn

This tweet exemplifies the way in which a brand can leverage a trending piece of content or topic to generate exposure.

3. Own Up to Mistakes

In a digital world where mistakes have a large audience, it is important to know how to recover if disaster strikes. Brands can take a page out of the host nation’s book on this topic as they handled an opening ceremony malfunction involving the glowing Olympic rings.


During the closing ceremony, a group of 700 dancers formed the Olympic rings in a dazzling display. Prior to forming the rings correctly, the group delayed forming the fifth ring in a humorous recognition of the aforementioned opening ceremony issue. Taken out of context, this act shows the value of admitting a mistake when it is made. This savvy display allowed people to see Russia’s humorous side, and in turn overshadowed the negative feedback produced by the initial mishap.

4. Be Bold


One of the lasting images from the Sochi Olympics is that of Mexican athlete Hubertus von Hohenlohe in his mariachi-styled ski suit. This unique outfit screamed Mexican pride and made von Hohenlohe and his homeland stand out from the crowd. Going into the games this might have seemed like a risky move, as it was likely unclear how people would react to his bold attire. The risk appeared to pay off, as a nation not commonly associated with winter Olympic fame will not soon be forgotten thanks to von Hohenlohe.

Organizations and individuals using social media can adopt this bold branding strategy. Taking a von Hohenlohe-style approach to social-media branding can lead to better recognition and notoriety. Wear your brand on your sleeve and make your identity clear in order to stand out from your peers and put yourself on the map.

5. The Value of Story Telling

While we might not always remember which athletes won specific medals or which nations recorded the highest medal totals, we won’t forget the memorable storylines produced by the Olympic games. The return of the Jamaican bobsled team and the interesting concept of three competing Canadian sisters are examples of storylines that will last in our memories for the foreseeable future.

Take this idea and run with it in your social-media strategy, as the stories that you tell are what matters to people in the end. Tell touching stories of your nonprofit’s success, share success stories about your services or make your employees’ stories known. Content of this nature is sure to stick in people’s minds and help them to associate with your brand.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi offers a number of valuable lessons regarding social-media branding. Consider the aforementioned ideas and tips in your own social strategies.


Written by Jesse Aaron. Jesse is a professional blogger with a passion for homebrewing. He is an advocate for one of the top rehab centers in the world and hopes to help those seeking recovery.