How to Improve Your Content Marketing With Olympic-Style Storytelling

One of my favorite things about the Olympics is not the competition itself, but the stories. Whether you agree with NBC’s coverage of the London games, it’s hard to deny that they are masterful storytellers.

Every time I turn on the tube, I find myself getting engrossed in stories about athletes I’d never heard of just moments before. Somehow, they find ways to make skeet shooting and archery incredibly interesting.

You see, NBC knows that for people to tune into the Olympics and watch sports without massive appeal, they have to do something important — they have to get you to care about the athletes.

That’s why before a competition, you’ll often see a short vignette about the athlete’s story. It gives viewers a hook and that reels them into the drama of the competition.

Here’s what that story typically looks like and how you can weave this into your content marketing efforts:

Set the stage.

To draw people into the competition, you have to set the stage for what’s about to happen. What are the conditions like? Who are the competitors? What is this competition important?

Here are some examples:

  • The Michael Phelps / Ryan Lochte battle in swimming — Michael has dominated the sport, but Ryan has been the better swimmer in recent years. Who will win?
  • Gymnast Jordyn Wieber didn’t make the cut in the individual all-around
      – will she be able to pull it together to help Team USA in the team competition?

You can do the same thing with your content. What is happening in your industry that readers need to know about? How is the business climate affecting the work you do? Helping your readers understand trends and what’s happening in the marketplace will make you a trusted advisor and resource.

Introduce the hero.

At this point, the stories give you some deeper insight into the athlete’s story. You learn the Melissa Franklin started swimming lessons when she was one-year-old and how, even though she’s an Olympian who’s still in high school, she is an average teenager who loves Justin Bieber.

Once you hear Melissa’s story, you can’t help but like her and want to cheer her on to that gold medal.

You can up the ante on your content by helping your readers get to know the players. Maybe that means sharing more about your company’s founders and what led them to starting your business. Or, you can introduce your employees, the every day heroes who answer the phone, stock the shelves and serve your clients.

Once readers know more about who you are, they’ll be cheering for you that much louder. As I often preach, people like to do business with those they know like and trust.

Uncover a unique angle.

When telling stories about the athletes, NBC always tries to show what makes this competitor different. For instance, we learn about Ryan Lochte’s unique workout method, which includes using 600-pound tractor tires and beer kegs.

What does your company do that makes you stand out? Do you have services or processes that are unique? Do you ignore the “standard” approach to do things a little differently? If so, shout this from the rooftops. Not only does this make you memorable, it helps you differentiate yourself from the competition.

Unveil the obstacle.

Oftentimes, the piece will uncover some challenge that the athlete had to overcome during their journey. Maybe it was an injury or dealing with a failed attempt in the previous games.
 By revealing the obstacles help the viewers understand what’s at stake.

Contrary to popular belief, you CAN talk about times you’ve failed or made a misstep. In fact, readers will love you for it. Not only does it make you more relatable, but it shows that you’ve got the smarts and talent to beat the odds and come out on top.

Showcase the triumph.

The final piece of the story showcases the athlete beating the odds. Sometimes, it’s the race or competition itself where the athlete comes away on top. Other times, the success is merely that the athlete has made it to the Olympics in the first place, which is a feat in itself. Whatever it is, we take great satisfaction in seeing the successful end to the story.

Yes, you can and should talk about your business’ success. That means, sharing success stories and case studies about positive work you’ve done. It means letting your readers know when you’ve won an award or been recognized in your industry.

I know that sometimes it feels braggadocious to do those things, but trust me, that it pays off. People like to do business with winners — those who are at the top of their game. Don’t be afraid to let people know that you’ve got talent and that you’re worthy of their business.

Are you watching the Olympics? How can you use these ideas in your business?

P.S. My friend, Stanford Smith, also wrote a great post yesterday about using the Olympics as inspiration for your content. Check it out here.

Image credit: Marcus Mo


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Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

4 replies on “How to Improve Your Content Marketing With Olympic-Style Storytelling”

In the commentary I’ve been reading it’s the story narrative that I find so compelling. As a business consultant I often have to remind clients that essentially the marketing they do is telling the ongoing story of their brand. We can all take inspiration from the OS in London and the stories that are emerging.

Excellent advice! Even though I seem to be the only person in the office who isn’t watching the Olympics this year, I enjoy reading about goings-on and all of the success stories that go along with that. “Uncovering a unique angle” is my favorite point here, because I’m a firm believer in the power of a memorable story. Nine times out of ten, I root for the underdog because their story is just so darn interesting! And that doesn’t exclusively apply to Olympians. 🙂

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