How Ford Is Snapchatting the Olympics Without Mentioning the Olympics

Nonsponsor's campaign follows USOC's strict IP rules

If you're not an official Olympics sponsor, creating a social media campaign centered on the games or its themes without breaking the U.S. Olympic Committee's many, many, intellectual property rules can be an Olympian feat in itself. But Ford has managed to do it by building a social media campaign for the Olympics that doesn't directly mention the Olympics at all.

Ford's campaign for its 2017 Ford Escape SUV, "We are All Fans," launches Friday with Snapchat ads that focus on fandom and patriotism. On Aug. 13, Ford will launch a sponsored Snapchat lens that lets users paint their faces red, white and blue and activate a confetti shower in their snaps.

The snap ads do allude to the Olympics. They include a guy performing a pommel horse routine on top of his Ford Escape, a weightlifter loading boxes into the back of her SUV, and a clapping dog. A few of them get a little cheekier, showing the doors of an Escape opening and closing with the taglines "Here's to a ceremonious opening," and "Here's to a ceremonious closing," respectively. Still, none of the ads violate the USOC's rules about what nonsponsor brands can't say during the games.

"We take all of the USOC's guidelines very seriously and would never do anything that would seriously go against those," said Lisa Schoder, Ford's digital marketing manager. "We looked at our 'Life is a sport' [brand] platform, and we thought about how people would be second-screening [during the games]. It acknowledges what's happening in culture and embraces that."

Ford will be sharing more than 200 pieces of real-time content on Twitter as well over the duration of the games, using emojis and GIFs tied to different sports. But the brand will take care not to use any Olympics terminology that's banned. "The keywords we were brainstorming were 'fit,' 'active,' 'strong,' 'human' and 'smart,'" said Kellee Montgomery, Ford's social marketing manager.

Ford plans to develop content on the fly during the games' most talked-about moments, and there are lots of ways other nonsponsor brands can do the same, Schoder said.

"It's a matter of monitoring what's going on in culture, especially how it relates to conversations on social, and figuring out how Ford can be a part of those conversations," she said. "We know there's going to be a massive audience that's consuming content during this time, and we want to be a part of that energy and excitement."