Olympic lessons: learning for the future of major global events
Jean-Paul Edwards
13 August 2021

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics now behind us, what are the lessons to be learned from these games? Viewing patterns are changing fast in an environment led by streaming growth and long-term Pay-TV rights. What can brands offer in these, all too rare, moments of global attention to positive human stories? 

Linear viewing up and down

US audiences were down on both the recent games and in previous Asian timezone games.

Movie studios have traditionally avoided releasing blockbusters during this period. Big titles such as ‘Jungle Cruise’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ were released in theatres and online as COVID-19 propelled paid-for streaming and a backlog of titles. 

Despite these lower numbers, the Olympics was the second highest rating show of the 2020/2021 season so far and delivered 11 of the top 15 rated programs this year.

Streaming up (a lot)

Viewing streamed through digital platforms has grown significantly, and at a higher rate than between previous games. 

​Unique power of sports to engage

Despite a decline in broadcast ratings, sports maintain a unique ability to bring audiences together at scale and drive attention and brand impact. Whilst streaming growth will further support niche sports.

A recent study from TVision in India showed that live sports, particularly cricket, provided advertisers with an environment 50% more likely to drive attention than other types of content. India may well be a driver of growth in global Olympic interest with its most successful games ever this year.  

The Olympic fan experience translates into business impact for sponsoring brands. A recent GWI study shows significant uplift for sponsoring brands to both purchase and engage, especially amongst younger audiences.

A global exposition

The Olympics provides a rich canvas upon which brands can create assets with global exposure.

The world’s top fashion brands have associated with their national teams, such as Telfar Clemens for the Liberian national team. The opening ceremony provides a unique showcase that reaches way beyond the traditional fashion interest base.

The athlete’s social Olympics

Not so long ago, IOC policy was to clamp down on athletes sharing their experience of the Olympics. This year, social media restrictions were eased significantly. TikTok is the channel of choice for many athletes, sharing their experience of a socially distanced Olympics – from laundry to glory.

Female athletes dominated social conversation. The top 5 athletes on Twitter were all women and female-led posts drove 50% more engagement than male athlete led posts. 

Athletes are increasingly a channel in their own right, with followings in the tens or sometimes hundreds of millions. Whilst footballers dominate the top of the list of the most followed sports stars, Olympic athletes are able to build following quickly and have authentic and diverse stories to tell. 

What to expect 

The trailer for Paris 2024 is a powerful statement of intent. The next three years will see significant shifts in the landscape. 

The streaming ad market is currently 9% the size of broadcast in the US eMarketer state and by 2023  this will be 32% and will continue to rise. Advertising on streaming platforms will be propelled by many sporting events including the Olympics. Whilst E-sports are also coming to the Olympics.  

In three years we can expect to see more integration with social channels, athlete engagement and creativity in these unique moments of reach and engagement. 

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