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How do apparel advertisers use search marketing for the Sochi Olympics?

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi  was the perfect time for apparel advertisers to capitalize on interest in Olympics apparel. Millions of people spend hours a day glued to their TV or computer screens, exposed  to some pretty unique designs in Olympic clothing. Just look at the Ralph Lauren-design Team USA outfit, for example.

From a marketing perspective, it’s a great time to use search marketing to tell Winter Olympic fans how they can get the clothing worn by their favorite athletes.

The Search Monitor was curious how apparel advertisers were adjusting their search engine ads for the Olympics. Our theory was that the most ‘on-their-game’ apparel advertisers would be bidding on Olympic-themed keywords and serving up compelling Olympic-related ad copy to match those keywords and increase click rates.

Olympic-apparel-search-marketingWe were also curious which advertiser would be running the most ads. Was it a brick-and-mortar giant? Or a super-savvy e-tailer? We used our search engine crawling technology to perform the experiment . Here are the details:

  • We looked at one busy 24-hour period (Monday, February 17) during the middle of the Winter Olympics.
  • We only looked at US searches on Google and monitored both desktop and mobile searches.
  • We looked at 90+ keywords containing variations of ‘2014 Sochi Winter Olympics’ and 5 popular apparel terms: t-shirt, hat, jersey, apparel, jacket.
  • For these keyword combination, our SmartCrawler™ technology returned 288 different ads run by 66  advertisers

Using ‘Olympics’ in ad copy

First, let’s look at some of the advertisers that included Olympics copy in their ads. We looked closer to see if they included it in the headline, the supporting lines underneath, and the Display URL (all 3 would be a best practice!)

Not all advertisers were using Olympics wording, which was very surprising. A few examples of the ones that were:

  • Zazzle:  Zazzle included Olympic copy in their ad headline (example:  Sochi Merchandise, Sochi Olympic Apparel, Sochi T-shirts)
  • Cafepress: This popular t-shirt company did a solid job of including it in their headline (e.g., “Olympic Games Apparel”) and their supporting lines (e.g., “T-shirts, hoodies, and polos for Olympics lovers”)
  • Amazon: Of Amazon’s eight different Winter Olympics ads we saw on February 17, six mentioned Olympics, a respectable percentage. In a few cases they seemed to be auto-inserting Olympic keywords into their ad and it read poorly (e.g., “Canada Olympic at Amazon / Shop the latest Canada Olympic / Free Shipping on Qualified Orders”). Similar to Zazzle, they scored big points by using Sochi in the headline and secondary copy for several of their ads
  • and These two e-tailers won the prize  for having ‘Olympics’ mentioned in their headline, secondary copy, and their DisplayURL (

Not using Olympics in ad copy

We next decided to look at the advertisers that were simply running their same ads, without mentioning anything about Olympics. We were surprised to find very big names on this list, since it’s best practice, of course, to tailor your ad copy to the keywords you’re bidding on (as much as possible.)

This list included Hanes, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Land’s End, Macy’s, and Nike. This impressive list prompted the question: Do they even sell Olympics apparel? If not, is this a strategic move to see if they can get Olympic apparel searchers to buy non-Olympic apparel? We’d would be interested to see the CTRs on those ads.

Who won the market visibility battle?


Finally, we wanted to see which advertiser was owning Winter Olympics apparel searches on our test day (Feb. 17). We ran out Market Visbility report and learned that had the highest market share for the keyword combinations monitored.

TeamUSAShop actually scored a 100% market visibility in the one day we monitored results, meaning that it showed up in all searches for our list of keywords. Very impressive! In second place was, with a score of 60%, still very impressive. Just to give you a frame of reference, Amazon had a Market Visibility score of just 22% on this day.

Market Visibility is The Search Monitor’s metric that combines the ad’s frequency (the number of times the ad was seen during monitoring) and the ad’s rank (to adjust for the fact that higher ranks get more visibility).


There are a few that we have, and I am sure readers of this post can suggest a few more. For starters, a simple one: if you sell Olympic apparel and were not on that list of 66 advertisers we found (ask us for the list if you’re curious), you have to be there. Simple as that.

Next, we understand it takes extra effort to adjust a PPC campaign for a 2.5 -week event like the Sochi Winter Olympics. It’s a lot easier to write copy once and let it fly for months at a time. The findings above show that it’s not enough to just run the same ad when you are buying very specific keywords like 2014 Winter Olympic apparel. On a side note, we would be interested to know if it was a conscious decision, or an oversight, to not tailor the ad copy.

The other lesson for apparel advertisers is to keep a close eye on their Market Visibility score to make sure their exposure levels match their marketing and sales goals. The Search Monitor recommends that most advertisers monitor this stat weekly, and even more often during promotional campaigns or holiday periods where search volume increases and market visibility shifts happen quickly.

Let us know what you think. We plan to repeat this analysis with other opportunities for sales, like Baseball Opening day, Easter, and Mother’s Day, and then see which advertisers are on their game when it comes to search marketing during promotional periods.

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