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4 Tips to Engage Multilingual Audiences on the Road to the Olympics Marketers need to speak a lot of people's languages when the whole world is watching the Olympics.

By Richard Harpham Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The Summer Olympics are only weeks away and everyone from athletes, to the city of Rio de Janeiro, tourists, event organizers and spectators are preparing for the world's largest sporting event. To facilitate communication for both athletes and spectators alike, advance preparations to accommodate for the hundreds of languages that will be spoken are in full swing. From hiring on-site professional interpreters to ensuring signage and event materials are translated, the Olympic Committee and Rio are preparing for millions of international visitors. Brands from all over the world are also taking advantage of this opportunity to market to an international audience and grow their brand. Are you prepared to market to this worldwide audience?

The Olympics draw more overall viewers during the multi-day event than any single sporting event. With 206 nations expected to participate, there are already more than 65 broadcasters signed on to broadcast the games to audiences around the world in nearly as many languages. Social media and live streaming will be big this year too -- in an unprecedented move, NBC struck a deal with messaging app Snapchat to post video highlights and engage younger viewers.

It's no wonder global brands like Coca-Cola, Bridgestone, McDonald's, P&G, GE, Samsung and Visa are partnering or sponsoring the games to take advantage of such a massive international audience.

Regardless of official sponsorships or giant advertising budgets, marketing to such a captive international audience through email, social media, online and mobile campaigns requires you to speak your target audiences' languages, and it requires more than just translating words. Check out these tips to help you engage your international audience.

Related: These 5 Global Business Leaders Speak Multiple Languages. Should You?

1. Localize your content.

Make your content resonate with localized materials that reference regional customs and include culturally appropriate images that are professionally translated by someone who is a native speaker and familiar with local vernacular. Avoid using machine translation. It's tricky even for translators to get colloquialisms correct and when you consider the slang typically used in the context of various sporting events, phrases translated out of context will be nearly impossible to get right.

Reviewing materials in-context, i.e., in the final template or format they will be delivered in, will help ensure accuracy. If you consider how text length changes depending on the language (Japanese is short, German is longer, for example), you can avoid time-consuming, last minute edits during the final review stage.

2. Gauge your in-region presence.

As evidenced by the demand for online sites, digital experiences and streaming video, spectators are hungry for content. Before you launch your Olympics-related in-language campaign, be sure to localize all related assets and touchpoints: landing pages, video clips, product materials, etc. Otherwise you're likely to offend rather than engage. And, don't forget about mobile. As audiences increasingly turn to their mobile devices for information, localizing and optimizing mobile content is a must.

Related: Going Global: How to Optimize Your Site for Worldwide Conversions

3. Timing is critical.

With live events like the Olympics, speed matters. Brands need to be able to react quickly to performances of the day. Avoid launch delays by providing easy-to-translate copy (again, avoiding local vernacular, idioms, etc.) and be ready to react quickly with a coordinated message in target languages.

Moreover, marketers often overlook the timing of their campaigns -- as in what time they're actually sent -- when targeting audiences in different time zones. Delivering content at 10 a.m. in your time zone is appropriate, but if it's reaching your audience's inbox at 10 p.m., not so much. Open rates will improve if you schedule content to be delivered at optimal times.

4. Stay informed.

If your campaigns and content are closely tied to the Olympics, pay attention to what is going on at the events -- both the games themselves, as well as political and geographic events that may impact audience sentiment. You wouldn't want to send a misleading message if a country's team is not in a favorable position.

The Olympics are a great opportunity to engage a captive global audience that is hungry for games-related content, but to reach your target audiences, generate demand and grow revenue takes a bit of planning and working with the right localization service provider. Campaigns must be optimized from creation through to execution in order to be relevant to your regional audiences.

Related: Xerox's New Tech Scans Documents in One Language Then Prints Them in Another

My advice is to leverage marketing technology to localize content, manage concurrent targeted multi-channel campaigns for global audiences and create efficiencies in the processes to scale your Olympic-themed campaigns globally. On your mark, get set, go global.

Richard Harpham

President and CEO of Cloudwords

Richard Harpham is president and CEO of Cloudwords. Harpham has more than 20 years of experience launching products into international markets for both start-up ventures and enterprise organizations, including Autodesk, M-SIX, and Calgary Scientific

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