Olympics VS Super Bowl. The Marketing Differences

Michael R. Czinkota  and Charles Skuba

The Super Bowl  reached viewers around the world, but Olympic advertisers will be communicating with a much broader audience from diverse cultures who will bring with them a different set of interests and emotions. To persuade such a multicultural audience, advertising will need to seek commonalities of the mind and heart.  Global advertising agencies have the expertise to create messages that work across borders and avoid the danger of leaving broad groups of viewers bewildered or, worse, offended.

We offer five winning techniques (not exclusive to each other)for creative messaging to global audiences during the Olympics in national and global media campaigns.  

 Universal human emotions come first. The best brands inspire and capture positive, if not joyful, emotion in their customers. Marketers know that emotion often trumps reason in purchase decisions. Dig deep into any customer psyche, whether of a business decision-maker or a teenage gamer, and you’ll find a bundle of emotions that are common to people across cultures.  Although there are cultural differences in what stirs emotion, some things are universal, like love stories and the pursuit of dreams.

For the 2012 London Olympic Games, P&G launched the global “Thank You Mom” campaign that celebrated the love of young Olympic athletes and their mothers. There may be no more powerful bond than the love between a mom and her child and that love is a universal emotion which is why P&G has renewed the theme for 2018.

Expansive imagery is also of major impact. The film industry has conditioned viewers across the world to crave dramatic, expansive imagery. The most successful global films create a powerful impact of sight and sound. The Olympics are a key opportunity for grand imagery. Marketers regularly use striking visuals to capture attention but the bar is being raised.

Inspiring sounds and music follow hand-in-hand with expansive imagery. Music enhances visuals for dramatic and emotional impact.  Marketers must be careful with music selection.  Coca Cola has long used “happiness” music to appeal to young people around the world. Naturally, if the music is great, people will want to share it.

Then there is symbolism. For simple communication of an idea, it’s hard to beat. Marketers often employ symbolism to enhance and distinguish their campaign and product messaging.

If you can show product advantage in advertising, your  marketing effort is working.  The trick is to get people’s attention to your message and also sell. Also, marketers would be smart to walk away from messaging that depends upon slang or references to national pop culture.  If you didn’t grow up watching American television, you might not understand a lot of pop culture references that U.S. audiences instantly absorb.

Super Bowl advertising is uniquely tuned to American audiences while that of the Olympics must be globally focused. Both will employ many of the techniques identified here.  Marketers are literally going for the global gold. For the audience, the Olympic marketing messages will be quite different from the ones of the Super Bowl but well worth waiting for.


Prof. Michael Czinkota researches international marketing and business issues at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He served in trade policy positions in the George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations. His International Marketing text is now in its 10th edition. czinkotm@georgetown.edu

 Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce and previously was a senior executive in advertising. cjs29@georgetown.edu

Getting so much stronger all the time

As one observes the international activities of President Trump, one must admire his tenacity, focus, and, let it be said, his successes. Far from isolating himself from the world, as many media reports had suggested, President Trump is becoming increasingly well entrenched in his world leadership role. Far from other leaders running away from him, they increasingly can to rub against his cloth in order to achieve at least symbolic proximity.

I will demonstrate this with two examples taken from his activities in the last five days, taken from the international business field  alone –  alone – so no need to worry about another discussion of the Deputy FBI director’s resignation.: One was the Trump visit to Davos, Switzerland, where business leaders, policy makers and think tank figures met to exchange ideas and plans , combining mostly in the  fields of business, investment, trade, and the macro policies which are promoted to address problems perhaps too large for any country alone. Media sages predicted an outcast Trump with no audience, no interest and no influence.

Well, the contrary occurred. One President Trump had announced his attendance, the list of attendees from other nations was upgraded by title and influence – Trumps presence led to a strengthening of Davos. Those that had referred to the Trump experience of a cold shoulder must have been very chagrined by the discussion between Trump and Klaus Schwab – the founder and head of the World Economic Forum. Schwab showered considerable praise on Trump and his first year achievements, a claim that was widely repeated to high ranking members of business and policy.

In an elegant turnaround, chroniclers of Davos  found one new thought and explanation. Trump is wealthy and in business, so no wonder the other attendees liked him, they are birds of the same feather. No matter that many business people, a year ago, were concerned about what the novice politician would do. Turns out, Trump was not blessed with predicted naiveté, but rather had some meaningful plans, many of which he shepherded forward. Far from being a disaster, Davos was a Trump triumph.

The second example comes from the State of the Union address. Again, many predictions were negative, ranging from limited content to rising attendance boycotts. Well, again something must have been wrong with the crystal ball. The speech was elegant, strong and inspiring. Trump used his great talent as a story teller to introduce modern day heroes to Congress, America and the world, and was able to communicate a feeling of pride, comfort, and leadership. How could anyone avoid applauding – and as we know, when the applause comes you’ve done at least some winning over.

But the strongest part of the President’s speech consisted of what he didn’t say. Let me first tell a story myself. In London, on Jermyn Street I went into a haberdashery to buy a cotton shirt. They were very expensive and I asked the salesman to prove that they were worth the money. He explained that all luxury shirts have some extra buttons sewn in, so that in case of loss, there would be a replacement available. Now come the evidence: His shirts did not have any spare buttons, because theirs did not fall off. The absence of even good things can be of substantial proof.

The speech, about 80 minutes long, had only two minutes worth of comments on trade and globalization. We know how important jobs, international competition and competitiveness are to the President. The lack of mention shows that he is convinced that res ipsa loquitur – things speak for themselves. The economy is not limping along but on a definite fast track. Production sites are re-located back to the United States. Innovation, concentration and investments give our companies and their employees new wings.

So at the end of his first year in office, Trump has reason to be proud and we can accept his moments of exuberance – unusual perhaps but deservedly present.  Let me reiterate what I consider the strongest line in the speech: Americans are dreamers too. Let’s keep it that way!

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).


Time to Limit the Payoff for Terrorists

Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center, Germany

Michael R. Czinkota , Georgetown University USA and University of Kent, UK

Gary Knight, Willamette University, USA

Terrorists want more “bang for their buck” by undertaking high-impact events, choosing high visibility targets and directing their violence at less well-guarded “soft targets” such as transportation systems, business and private facilities.

Terrorism in the firm’s external environment is designed to create organizational confusion and contextual volatility, which refers to discontinous changes and requires firms to make frequent, abrupt, unexpected, and untested adjustments to their business strategies and operations. There also tends to be a perhaps misleading belief that terrorism responsive decisions must always be made swiftly.

Terrorists deliberately target non-combatants and insufficiently protected physical facilities. The globalization of commerce, travel, and information flows have enhanced the ease with which terrorism can be carried out, and increased the visibility and availability of potential terrorist targets. Port facilities, industrial clusters, shopping centers and financial districts are among numerous assets susceptible to terrorism via low-tech approaches. The threat is especially salient to firms with business facilities and infrastructure in multiple and diverse locations abroad, each one of which may need tailor-made protective measures. When evil doers make multiple-tap asynchronous attacks, losses can exceed worst-case scenario planning. Institutions and firms of industrialized nations are most vulnerable when they operate in emerging countries. MNE supply chains are vulnerable to potential long-term harm, particularly with firms whose first and second tier suppliers stretch around the world, in and out of risky environments. Any physical movement of goods introduces risk, disruptions and delays, but in developing nations more so.

Perceptions of threats from terrorism reduce the likelihood that firms will expend assets abroad, particularly in emerging economies that might become terrorism-prone areas in future. Companies spend billions annually to manage terrorism-induced risk and comply with terrorism-related government procedures and regulations.

Uncertainty is an attribute of marketing environments, particularly in international markets. Marketing activity is vulnerable to terrorism through disrupted international logistics, supply chain and distribution activities, insufficient information flows, and growing global demand for industrial and consumer goods. The complexity formed by linkages among terrorists, producers, buyers, and public actors reflects how with only 3-4 alternatives for each option, terrorism quickly represents hard to control and large number of scenarios. Furthermore, terrorism can trigger imposition of new regulations and procedures, which can hamper corporate activities. Security can reduce but not eliminate terrorism or fully insulate the firm from attacks. Government regulations aimed at preventing terrorism generate delays and increase the cost of business transactions, affecting company competitiveness.

The marketing organization comprises a bundle of strategic resources. Abundant material and effective alternative capabilities are traditionally associated with superior performance in international marketing ventures. The payoff from strategic resource stock piles is only realized when management activates situation specific organizational responses and behaviors, aligning them with clear and present changes in the corporate environment, not before.

The resource-based view (RBV) helps explain how firms develop and leverage organizational capabilities. Management structures, bundles, and leveraged resources determine the efficiency and effectiveness of company operations and organizational performance and robustness. The allocation of available marketing resources and the creation of new types of marketing tools are fundamental to the creation and maintenance of sustainable competitive advantages. Our research has found that many firms remain ill prepared to cope with terrorism, especially those operating in emerging markets. Firms often still respond passively or only reactively to the outslaught of terrorism. By contrast, we encourage firms to create proactive and innovative solutions for the management of terrorism threat.  This is what corporate innovation should be all about.

Such innovation must permeate organizational culture and be supported by new knowledge and technology enabling responsiveness to new, outwardly unexpected capabilities. Indeed, strongly innovative firms have highly developed and elaborated knowledge-creation routines and learning regimes.  A strong innovative culture supports the firm in developing responses tailor made for rapid deployment with new organizational capabilities. Rather than pursue just unidimensional thinking, ready for one action, firms need to deploy ambidextrous strategies and reinvent the situation specificity of their operations. Thus, management, which possesses a strong innovative culture and substantive awareness of even marginal threats of terrorism, might emerge less scathed from attack from that firms which are focused but limited in their outlook.


Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).




An introductory note: Over the coming weeks, we will post a series of Prof. Czinkota’s work with Prof. Valbona Zeneli, from the Marshall Center in Germany and Prof. Gary Knight, of Willamette University, USA. The work presented here is based on the research titled “Terrorism, Competitiveness and International Marketing: An Empirical Investigation” which was published in the International Journal of Emerging Markets, 2018.  We thank Ms. Niparat Pitchayanonnetr our departmental assistant for her editorial contributions. The series presents insights into what has been labelled a key challenge to the global business world today.
Here is our first post in the series which, together with future postings, you can freely distribute with proper credit to the authors and source.

Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center, Germany

Michael R. Czinkota , Georgetown University USA and University of Kent, UK

Gary Knight, Willamette University, USA

Terrorism refers to the risk or actual encounter of violent acts designed to cause fear and intimidation.  Despite posing an important threat to internationally-active firms, there is a paucity of empirical research that addresses the distinctive challenges that terrorism poses to the international marketing activities of firms.  Here we first provide a theoretical background on terrorism and its effects on international marketing in emerging markets.  We then relate terrorism to operational costs, marketing planning, supply chain management and distribution activities in the multinational enterprise (MNE).  We recognize significant costs in the international marketing budget of MNEs. Firms with substantial resources and international experience appear to have more alternatives, which allow them to cope better with the effects of terrorism than their less endowed peers.

Terrorism is a salient threat to organizational competitiveness in international marketing. It is the premeditated use or threat to use violence by individuals or subnational groups to obtain a political or social objective through the intimidation of a large audience beyond that of the immediate non-combatant victims.

For terrorists, perception matters! Terrorist attacks around the world have increased greatly in the past decades, spanning 92 countries and over 28,000 fatalities in 2015 alone. Most attacks are directed at civilians, businesses, and business-related infrastructure. The five countries most exposed to terrorist attacks in recent years are Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

Emerging markets are particularly affected by terrorism since their businesses and citizens have less of an opportunity to protect themselves. Among the possible environmental contingencies that can affect marketing organizations – such as weak economic conditions, rising energy prices, financial crises – terrorism is identified as potentially the most serious threat. Since terrorists select their targets with high flexibility, intensity and precision, international firms seek competitive advantage through the expansion of production, distribution, and the marketing of products and services across multiple national boundaries. Terrorism sharply reduces corporate enthusiasm to expand. Measures to counter terrorism in turn are based of restricted freedom of movement and increased government regulation, both of which impair global commerce. The border-crossing effect of terrorism creates slowdowns for international transactions reaching 2.5% of merchandise value, which is comparable to the average level of global tariffs.

International trade depends on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of global transportation systems. Terrorism increases the transaction costs of international commerce and delays global supply chains and distribution channels. Terrorism’s main impact reaches far beyond its immediate and direct effects. Key are the long term results from the indirect effects that occur in national and global economies. These include widespread anxiety and uncertainty that affect buyer demand, shifts or interruptions in the supply of needed inputs, new government regulations and procedures enacted to deal with terrorism, and longer-term perceptions that alter patterns of global trade and investment. Terrorism can also affect managerial attitudes towards risk, shift the risk absorption capacity of firms, and reduce the likelihood of embarking on international ventures or new investments abroad.

Our Google search of the NGram viewer system analyzed the extent of terrorism-related writings, and checked for correlations with the key terms ‘trade,’ ‘investment’ and ‘risk’. The results indicate a rapid increase of concern about terrorism since 1998. This development serves as an indicator of the growing preoccupation (in the English-speaking literature at least) with terrorism. Concurrently, and as expected in terms of theory-based postulations, actual risk increased while trade and investment interests declined.

We believe that terrorism will continue to be a significant factor in international marketing for decades to come. The rise of terrorism signals a new type of threat relevant to both developed and emerging economies. As governments increase security of public facilities, the likelihood of attacks against the softer targets of firms’ international operations is likely to increase.  Emerging economies need to find ways to increase their security in order to retain their attractiveness for foreign sourcing and investments. Corporate preparedness for the unexpected is a vital task. Innovative managers develop appropriate resources, and undertake planning and strategies to accommodate dislocations and sudden shocks. Terrorism represents an organizational crisis whose ultimate effects may be unexpected and unknown, posing a significant threat to the survival or performance of the firm.  Terrorism presents the firm with a dilemma that requires new decision-making and behaviors that will result in organizational change.  Firms that neglect to devote resources and capabilities to respond flexibly to terrorist triggered disruptions, risk sudden, sometimes even, total loss of competitive advantage. We follow the thinking of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who stated: “There are known knowns, which are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns, these are things we don’t know we don’t know”. The goal should be to analyze the role of terrorism under all three conditions.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE)


Spring 2018: Marketing Across Borders Syllabus


For the Spring 2018 semester, Prof. Michael Czinkota of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, offers a course on “Marketing Across Borders”.

The course will cover the internationalization and intersection of business and marketing. We will understand the global environment drivers and directions for business, and how policy frameworks are shaped around them, being affected by key variables such as culture and behavior. We will introduce living cases to offer examples of the topics we cover.

Storytelling and interaction will be dynamics of the course, with an emphasis on small and medium sized firms. We will also use learning exercises such as video productions and elevator pitches.

Below you can  find a more detailed syllabus of the course. In the following link you can see a video of Prof. Czinkota welcoming you to the course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OebH1ikkF3o

If you are a Georgetown University student, hurry up and sign up to the course and join us.

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Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key (with Ilkka Ronkainen) book is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).