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Effectiveness Marketing Measurement Olympics

Olympic advertising: can brands still claim a win?

Analytic Partners


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August 13, 2021 | 5 min read

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been full of firsts and unprecedented moves – from the no spectator rule to a multitude of simultaneous streaming options to view the games, it has been an event like no other

But what has Tokyo 2020 looked like for advertisers? Were the fans in the stands the key to success, or was it the millions of people in front of their TVs, radios, smartphones and computers?

No fans, no fun? Think omnichannel!

There was no doubt, especially among athletes, that spectator-free venues were causing a different kind of motivation and atmosphere. The fake applause in the stadium as well as scattered groups of fellow athletes barely made up for the "usual" cheers. However, when thinking of advertising in these surrounding, the success of a brand’s campaign was not linked to the audience on-site. The main portion of the advertising around the Olympics took place off-site. Major, highly publicized events like the Olympic Games can be a great marketing tool for brands to gain exposure and build long-term brand awareness through access to the mass audience viewership.

Olympic advertising is a game of omnichannel. For example, we have found that combining offline and online channels in a combined approach is 45% more efficient than offline alone and more efficient than online alone. Marketers should ensure their campaigns incorporate multiple channels and layer for synergies to support their growth. Another example is the combination of TV and Online Video that have a particularly strong synergy and can boost ROI by 35% in some markets. There are a number of brands that put together strong omnichannel campaigns throughout the Games, and they will likely come out the other side with the greatest ROI to show for it.

Bringing the Games to everyone's home(screen)

In such unprecedented times it was always going to be hard to estimate how effective Olympics advertising would actually be. But, given the rate of change and evolution of marketing, it would have always been hard to estimate the true effect. A great example of how to connect to the changing audience needs and behaviours is NBC. This year they were opening doors for advertisers to a highly sports-engaged audience of Millennials with its Twitch partnership, delivering live, interactive content on its platform, opening up a new and very relevant form of online video/online content.

We had seen a similar move from an advertising and content point of view with TikTok at Euro 2020, along with many other Chinese companies expanding their advertising efforts to Europe. They have used the platform to increase brand awareness, paired with a unique and emotional experience that is driven by user-generated content. It offered TikTok the ability to anchor a broader marketing initiative around the event. TikTok users had already trebled to 100m users in Europe before the event compared to last year and are likely to grow further.

The always-on paradox

The always-on nature of the Olympics poses a problem for advertisers, and it has ever since live TV went from being the only way to watch to being just one of a multitude of options. Many brands have questions over how attentive the audience to their ads when viewers have the programming on for hours at a time. Certainly there are the premium placements with higher viewership and attention – such as Opening and Closing ceremonies – and these are more expensive for that reason.

But an event like the Olympics, because it’s always on for 2 weeks, shouldn’t be thought of as a one-time event like the Super Bowl where brands buy that one big ad. Rather, brands that come out on top are those that plan for a number of ads during the Olympics to maximize the viewership and impact of their ads. Think of it as an advertising campaign within a larger advertising campaign.

Moreover, the new, emerging channels such as Twitch are opening up new ways to help brands adapt to where the viewers truly are and plan more flexible. And, as more viewership is moving outside of linear TV, brands should move their advertising spend accordingly. Ideally brands would split their video budgets similar to audience viewership division.

The Olympic flame continues to burn

The Games continue to be a great marketing tool to gain exposure and build long-term brand awareness because of the mass audience. Linking a brand to the emotions that come from an event like this is something unique and compelling. But while this strategy may be just the right advertising opportunity for some brands, it can just as well fail to deliver for others.

As with any investment, brands need to make sure that advertising during the Games is the right fit and will reach the right audience. Those that will see the greatest return on Tokyo 2020 are the brands that have focused on building awareness and value proposition with authentic and compelling messages delivered across multiple channels. With clear goals and an understanding of measurement for the long term, brands can sign off on their strategy with confidence when the flame goes out.

Effectiveness Marketing Measurement Olympics


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