This month’s 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be the most connected games to date.
For context, the 2014 Sochi Olympics were streamed across 155 websites and 75 apps live, making up more than 100,000 broadcasts in the two-week period. Now eMarketer predicts 2016 will mark the first time that more than half of the US population streams television content at least once a month.
Combine record-setting connectivity with the advances we’ve seen in programmatic since 2014 and brands are facing arguably the largest opportunity they’ve encountered for connecting on a global scale with their audiences. As a result, marketers have been thinking about how to best leverage mobile, social and video to tap into this collective global moment. Stakes are high; brands need to get it right since an opportunity of this scale only comes around every two years.
When the fifth Olympic ring failed to illuminate during Sochi’s opening ceremonies celebration, Planet Fitness and Audi took advantage with immediate responses via social channels. Today, brands have the same immediacy available through digital ad buys and flexible creative.
The beauty of programmatic is rooted in its capability for instantaneous action. With the advent of header bidding, brands have access to more premium inventory than ever before and the opportunity to react quickly. With the ability to reach specific audiences across devices based on time, location and other demographic attributes, campaigns can be launched and implemented on the fly, reacting to who is winning medals as they’re winning them.
Marketers can also react to game results, incidents or activity that occurs as a particular match, meet or game is playing out, be it a controversial call, an unexpected win or a heartbreaking defeat, as well as the reaction it generates from viewers in real time. Specific creative can be served with tailored messaging that can be woven through all digital media channels, including display, video, pre-roll and mobile via desktop or in-app.
During the Olympics, it’s not uncommon for broadcasts to cut to shots of an athlete’s hometown to show where and how people are congregating to watch a certain event. Imagine, for example, if after Michael Phelps wins the gold medal for the 100-meter butterfly, viewers at bars across Baltimore post on social media about his victory and receive an ad from MasterCard congratulating Phelps and the city on a hometown win.
Creative can be further tailored based on a user’s location so that someone watching in Iowa might also be served an ad congratulating Phelps on a gold medal for team USA. As geolocation and the ability to parse audience attributes down to an individual level become increasingly sophisticated, achieving one-to-one marketing at scale becomes more of a reality for brands.
New Advertising Rules
Marketers must also take into account the new sponsorship rules [PDF] the US Olympic Committee (USOC) announced last summer.
The USOC will allow non-Olympic sponsors to run ads featuring Olympic athletes during the games, a right that was previously reserved solely for sponsors, with the caveat that nonsponsors must run their marketing “continuously starting no later than March 27.”
Nonsponsors also can’t use phrases such as “Olympic,” “Rio/Rio de Janeiro,” “gold” and “games,” among others.
Being an official Olympic sponsor no longer guarantees the same awareness as it did in the past. It is simply impossible for the USOC to regulate all online media channels, especially considering the ease with which nonsponsors can create ownable moments.
For example, Under Armour, while not an official USOC sponsor, has deals with several Olympic teams and athletes who will share their stories via Under Armour’s #RuleYourself campaign throughout the games. And even for brands that have no affiliation with athletes or teams, social campaigns only serve to amplify engagement efforts. The takeaway is that even official sponsors need to be innovative in finding real-time, ownable moments across channels.
The most forward-thinking brands looking to engage audiences on the world’s stage are also beginning to leverage virtual reality to provide a comprehensive and 360-degree immersive consumer experience. Gatorade began experimenting with virtual reality advertising in late 2015 with a campaign that put fans in the shoes of Washington Nationals baseball player Bryce Harper as he stepped up to the plate. Other innovative brands are sure to follow in Gatorade’s footsteps at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
At this year’s summer games, the athletes will not be the only ones competing. As the countdown to Rio grows shorter, the stage is set for brands vying for consumer attention, engagement and, ultimately, conversion.