An Inside Look At How Yahoo! Handles Olympic Games Marketing

Last month, I wrote about managing search in a decentralized marketing organization. We covered budgets, goals, alignment, etc. All good in theory, but how does it work in real life?

To answer that question, I thought I would take a close look at how we’re working on one of our major marketing initiatives of the year: The 2012 Olympic Games.

The London Games is one of our big ‘tent pole’ events for the year. At Yahoo!, that means that it’s a major one-off event that gets maximum marketing support.

For the Games in July, Yahoo! has the ambitious challenge of attaining (and maintaining) the #1 position as the destination for all things Olympics-related, while not actually being an official sponsor. As you may or may not know, there are a limited number of Olympics sponsors, and if you’re not one, you can’t use catchy words in your ad creative like ‘olympics’. Interesting challenge indeed!

Despite our unofficial status, last time they lit the torch (in Vancouver), more folks came to Yahoo! to consume Olympics-related content than any other Web property. So, when planning for London, how can marketing (and specifically Search) support Yahoo!’s overall goal of maintaining our #1 stature in the pantheon of Olympics coverage?

Most important here for Search is what I talked about last month. Let’s review. I work in a functional group (‘channel marketing’) that interfaces with a more campaign- or event-oriented group (consumer marketing).

The challenge is to get in front of the planning process with consumer marketing in order to weigh in on channel-specific plans and allocations, thereby creating a cohesive integrated marketing plan.

What Are The Tools To Get This Done?

On our end, we do this by appointing a ‘channel lead’ for big events like the Olympics. The channel lead is a functional marketer who represents the entire channel marketing group to consumer marketing.

He or she is responsible for maintaining our group’s presence in front of consumer marketing, and perhaps more importantly, pulling together a channel-specific plan to support the goals of the consumer marketing group.

First of all, we need to appoint a channel lead, who is at a high enough level to effectively carry all of the channel recommendations and represent them to the consumer marketing group, while still doing a day job.

Probably best to be a channel owner in this case – that would be one of my peers in the organization – in the case of the Olympics it happens to be our email channel owner, Sue Coakley.

For this particular tent pole, Sue is responsible for pulling together all of our channel-specific plans, vetting them with us, and then representing the Channel Plan to the Olympics marketing lead on the Consumer Marketing side.

So what does Sue pull together? Everything. As a channel marketing group we discuss how to break up budgets and PPC allocations to support the various marketing goals. Impressions, clicks, conversions, UUs, App downloads; everything has to be planned out at this stage.

How much do we allocate to SEM vs. Affiliates vs. Display Media?

We have to work this out ahead of time, and then bring our recommendation back to the consumer marketing team. What we’re then left with is a detailed plan that shows how we’re going to contribute to company goals for this event, and going forward, it’s what we’re signing up to deliver. Accountability – what could be better?

In some companies, there is an Integrated Marketing Lead (IML) that sits above this whole process (as in the illustrations). He or she becomes necessary when there is a B2B or offline component to the campaign, and additional coordination is thus necessary.

Engagement Model for PPC in Olympics Marketing

SEM Engages with Consumer Marketing


How  Does Search Marketing & PPC Fit In?

Again, it depends on what the goals of the larger marketing group are. Here are a few examples: If the goal is to be #1, there is a lot Search can do to drive traffic and engagement to the Games experience on Yahoo!.

It turns out, to no surprise, that the effective CPC to bring a search engine user to the site is low relative to most other marketing channels. Additionally, there are going to be Yahoo-original features to go along with the games. I can’t share details on these feature sites, but you’ll see them as we get closer to the games.

In buying related keywords, we can drive targeted traffic to these feature properties, increasing engagement and usage of these assets, which again contributes to our goal to be number one.

Another example is mobile search and app downloads. Before and during the games there will be demand for Games-related apps, to track medals, athletes’ performance, etc. on people’s mobile devices. Perfect application for PPC, capturing demand and optimizing to a specific conversion event.

Now we’re talking!

What About Budgeting?

Ah, budgeting. In a perfect world, Search (and other channels) can do a complete bottom-up budget build based on well-defined goals and performance metrics. This way budgets for events are allocated rationally, based on which channel can perform against a given profitability metric. That’s the beauty of the engagement model above, it allows for this type of utopian planning.

In reality, sometimes we’re handed a budget and we have to make the best of it. Most of the time, we land somewhere in between, where channel-level budgets are loosely defined, and channel owners are able to move budgets back or forth depending on their channel’s ability to deliver. And just for the record, that works for me!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Enterprise SEM


About The Author: is Vice President, Marketing at Move, Inc., parent company of and other significant real estate-focused web properties. In this capacity, Roth oversees Paid and Organic Search, Affiliate, Mobile and Social Marketing for the Company. Prior to his arrival at Move, Dave was Sr. Director of Search and Affiliate Marketing at Yahoo!, Inc.

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