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Greenlid Envirosciences is promoting a product it hopes to launch soon in Canada: biodegradable mosquito traps.

Small businesses typically do not have millions of dollars a year to spend on sponsorship with the Canadian Olympic Committee. So what are startups to do when they would like to be part of the activities around the Olympics?

This week, Toronto-based Greenlid Envirosciences is promoting a product it hopes to launch soon in Canada: biodegradable mosquito traps. One of the claims its product, Biotraps, has going in its favour is that it will be used to help protect Canadian athletes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus is a major cause of concern.

Greenlid has just four employees and very little marketing budget, but it has donated roughly 100 traps to the Canadian Olympic Foundation, the registered charity affiliated with the COC. The traps will be placed around the Canadian Olympic House – which acts as a COC home base on site during the Games, and which both athletes and attendees can visit – as well as Canada's "performance centre," where some COC staff will be staying, the team will be outfitted and some training space will be available to Canadian athletes.

However, these types of in-kind donations can be tricky to use for advertising purposes: The COC stresses that they do not count as sponsorships, and companies are limited in how prominently they can advertise the link to Team Canada.

"They're not supposed to be promoting it like a marketing partnership," said Erin Mathany, director of strategic partnerships for the COC, who has been working with Greenlid on its donation and helping the company work out how it can talk about it.

However, the timing is good: Greenlid is kicking off an Indiegogo campaign this week, asking people to contribute money to pre-order the traps for themselves, and the product website says that "Biotraps are being used to protect our athletes at the Rio 2016 Olympics."

With attention focused on athletes pulling out of the Games over the Zika virus, Greenlid will be using public relations and social media to promote its presence in Rio, including videos of the company deploying the traps there.

The COC also plans to issue a news release with a list of companies that have donated products that will be used to protect athletes and will include Biotraps on that list.

"That is a form of marketing," said Adil Qawi, partner and head of global strategy at Greenlid. "For us, PR plays a very strong role, perhaps more so than mass advertising. … We are certainly hoping to get media attention and people noting us as a result of our presence in Rio, but we are not looking to advertise or market with the Canadian Olympic team or leverage any of their resources to do so."

The company already sells compost bins made of biodegradable material, and the founders appeared on CBC's Dragons' Den. The mosquito traps use small biodegradable buckets similar to those used for the compost product. Users then add water to activate an insecticide, and mosquitoes drawn to the standing water are poisoned.

In some places, similar traps made of plastic are already used; Greenlid says the advantage of its traps is that they break down on their own and are also designed to leach water when the insecticide becomes ineffective, so that the standing water does not become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Greenlid is working on getting the product approved by Health Canada for sale, and by authorities in other countries such as the United States. After a test with the Queensland government in Australia, the company says, its traps will be distributed there to fight the spread of dengue fever.

The Indiegogo campaign is designed to attract funding that it will need for further trials and approvals in other countries. (Those who pledge will receive traps, likely next year or as soon as approvals are secured in their countries.) The campaign pledge is that purchases of the traps will be automatically matched with donations of more traps to countries in need, currently focusing on 10 countries in Central and South America.

"We're very inspired by the Toms Shoes approach," Mr. Qawi said.

"It's one piece of a much larger control effort strategy. And it's a potentially effective piece," said Isaac Bogoch, a physician and researcher specializing in infectious diseases and professor in the University of Toronto's department of medicine.

Dr. Bogoch gave Greenlid permission to use an excerpt of an interview he gave on the subject in their campaign launch video, though he stressed that he does not endorse products and would need to see more data from the field before commenting on Biotraps' effectiveness. "There are other products that do this. The interesting thing about this one is that it is biodegradable."

Greenlid has partnered with non-profit organizations Direct Relief and International Medical Corps to distribute the traps to communities in need. (Donations often require different approval processes than securing approvals for sale.)

The company has also been contacting existing Greenlid compost-bin customers to let them know about the initiative through its Facebook page and e-mail.

"We needed to get the word out and try to make some kind of global impact," Mr. Qawi said. "… Small businesses need to get scrappy and do things in any way they can."