Eurosport, the lead European Olympics broadcaster, has attracted its first major sponsor in Bridgestone ahead of Tokyo 2020. The Japanese tyre and rubber company has taken up the 'presenting partner' role in 50 markets.
Bridgestone will introduce Eurosport’s European morning programme and video-on-demand highlights, footage from 33 sports over 17 days. It will be headline brand on the website and app and will also have dedicated takeovers around big Games milestones, such as 100 days to go and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Its considerable involvement comes after Eurosport delivered a package that drew on lessons learned from its previous forays into the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, of which Bridgestone was also a sponsor.
Mike Rich, head of sports marketing solutions at Eurosport, said he's been on "a huge learning curve" after the broadcaster delivered its 'first fully digital Games' at Pyeongchang. Since joining in September, he has been focused on finding Olympic partners to match the unprecedented scale of Discovery's unified rights package across Europe.
"What Brands are looking for is what we are uniquely placed to deliver," he said.
With the Winter Olympics in 2018, Eurosport claimed to reach 76m million people across digital and social, and 63% of the population on free-to-air and pay-TV in its top ten markets.
Rich said: “We help Olympic partners build on their high levels of awareness and associations around the Games. We are all about building engagement with customers through sport at scale.”
Lessons from Pyeongchang
Eurosport's major takeaway from 2018 that it's pitching to sponsors ahead of Toyko is simply talking up the significance of its reach and to make it easily buyable with a "one-stop shop" sales team.
Its offering differs by market but there's linear coverage on Eurosport 1 and 2. It owns rights in 50 markets but has sublicensed hours back to 40 national broadcasters (like the BBC). Then there's OTT service, the Eurosport Player, which comes in 21 languages, has 45 live feeds, and boasts all 3,500 hours of Tokyo 2020. More broadly, the Eurosport site averages 29m monthly website visitors, building on 18m social fans, and 236m cumulative subscribers.
Discovery also has stakes in GolfTV, the Global Cycling Network and GroupNine it can utilise in addition to social media partnerships that are yet to be confirmed.
For Rich though, scale for its own sake "just doesn't cut it" without pairing it with relevant content for each platform. Brands can partner on a national or continental basis, but Rich is positioning its creative solutions team to ensure the effectiveness of the placements. It is a part of the business he is confident can be built up in the coming years.
The team has helped Bridgestone develop programming and content around its long-lived 'Chase Your Dreams No Matter What' campaign. The work will land across all Eurosport channels in the run-up to the Games this summer. The team's challenge is in "understanding a brand's ambitions, and delivering creative storytelling that works for them and the sports audience".
In this respect, access to footage from these and previous Games makes the job infinitely easier for the team and helps drive the attention of audiences.
And finally, Eurosport has been showing off its state-of-the-art production output. As presenting partner, Bridgestone is helping deliver innovations like 'The Cube' and its 3D mapping tech. In particular this "fits with Bridgestone's grand ambitions of being a mobility and technology company".
Thankfully, during this reinvention of the category, Rich claims there has been little tension between editorial and commercial.
He said: "There's a shared ambition that advertising doesn't necessarily need to be interruptive all the time. If you approach your creative output to make the advertising add value to the consumer experience then we are off to a great start."
Reflecting on 2018's output, he concluded: "Pyeongchang helped brands become more aware of the value they can gain from partnering with us," and told The Drum to expect more partner announcements in the coming months.
We creep ever closer to the Games. Eurosport kicked off its one-year countdown to the Games with a manga-inspired spot back in July.
Looking to drive engagement all year round, George Aivazoglou, vice president of marketing at Eurosport, pointed out that 70% of the Summer Olympic sport disciplines are regularly featured on the channel.