The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games are upon us. The exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics, and offer advertisers airtime within Olympic programming, is a huge opportunity for both the network and the advertisers who purchase airtime. The NBC network has had the rights to broadcast the Olympics since the 1996 Games, and this year, NBC paid a staggering $963 million for the rights to broadcast the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. This is a 24% increase over the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games. To ensure that these exclusive rights remain valuable to marketers, Olympic advertising is evolving dramatically. This evolution has resulted in a drastically different landscape in 2018.
This year, NBCUniversal has decided to include all viewer consumption as part of their ratings guarantee on a national level, whether from traditional TV household viewers, over-the-top (OTT) devices, NBCUniversal apps, or other non-traditional platforms. This is likely a response from the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, where NBC missed their ratings guarantees by 17%. In addition, NBC believes this change will allow advertisers to reach viewers where and when they are watching, and to target younger viewers who primarily stream the Olympics (as opposed to watching linear television coverage). Although no data is available yet on how these changes have affected impressions, NBC has said the network already received positive feedback from advertisers and is hopeful this change will benefit any brand that purchased time in the Olympic Games.
NBC has also implemented the rollout of six-second ads, a concept which NBC considered for Super Bowl LII but ultimately decided against. Although considerably shorter than traditional spots, six-second ads allow NBC to sell space to more advertisers, and to target advertisers who may not have the budget for the higher price tag of a :30 spot. For advertisers, six-second spots are a good way to reach younger consumers known to have shorter attention spans, a coveted demo for many brands. Studies also show when it comes to reaching new consumers, shorter is better. One study found that nine out of ten six-second ads drove ad recall and 61% lifted brand awareness.
On the digital front, NBC has placed more emphasis on social media. The 2016 Rio Olympic games received over 187 million tweets, 2.2 billion snaps, and over 1.5 billion Facebook interactions. NBC’s Olympics page totaled over 600 million video views alone. These numbers are only expected to grow for the 2018 Olympic Games, so it’s not surprising that NBC is planning to make the 2018 games the “most live” viewed in history. The focus will be on high quality videos which hit social feeds on Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter as soon as available. With more viewers streaming their highlights through these formats, as opposed to watching them on primetime TV, advertisers have more options to align their brands with the Olympics outside of traditional television buys.
Thanks to recent digital advertising trends, the advertiser also has more avenues to reach consumers during the Olympics even without partnering with NBC. Social media “influencers” are becoming a viable way for brands to tap into the Olympic frenzy without buying space on traditional television or through streaming advertising. Advertisers can select Olympic athletes or teams who align with their brand’s image, sponsor them, and reach the athlete’s fans on social media – behold, possible new consumers. The sheer number of athletes competing in the Olympics gives advertisers an opportunity to align their brand with Olympics conversation. Brands can utilize paid social channels to reap the full benefits of influencer advertising, allowing them to be in the Olympic space through channels outside of NBC’s reach.
The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic games will soon come to a close. NBCUniversal and marketers will then have a better idea of how effective their efforts were in reaching their goals. One thing is for sure, the advertising landscape will continue to evolve and 2020’s Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will bring more changes and new ways of reaching consumers through media.