Spotlight on the Summer Olympics

By John Licardi  | 

The Olympics are always a momentous event, with up to four billion people typically experiencing the festivities and their related ads on either television or social media. But this year’s Summer Games won’t be like any we’ve previously seen. After postponing the 2020 competition for the first time in 124 years due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics are now set to run July 23 to August 8. From coverage to campaigns, here’s what you need to know.

Tuning In
NBCUniversal will broadcast 7,000 hours of Olympics action on NBC, USA, CNBC, NBC Sports Network, Peacock and other platforms as part of their $4.4 billion rights deal. (An additional $7.75 billion agreement buys them broadcast exclusivity for upcoming Olympic games between 2021 and 2032.) “We are going to deliver the most comprehensive—and accessible—coverage for any sports event in history,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production. “The depth and breadth of our broadcasts will be unprecedented, showcasing once-in-a-generation athletes and storylines that will capture the incredible uniqueness of these Games and our times.” Fun kicks off with the Opening Ceremonies that will be watchable live as they unfold (in the morning stateside), then rerun during a later primetime spot. USA will offer nonstop, 24-hours-a-day Olympics programming, and for the first time since Atlanta’s 1996 games, the women’s gold medal basketball finals will be available in primetime on August 7. 

Brands Buy into Olympics Buzz
Prior to last year’s postponement announcement, NBCUniversal had expected to amass an advertising profit totaling over $1.2 billion. (Though current revenue estimates remain unknown, the network has collaborated with sponsors for the past year on a comprehensive initiative to boost ad sales.) That’s because the Olympics offer brands an unparalleled marketing opportunity. “Somewhere between half the world and two thirds of the world are going to tune in at some point,” said Ryan McConnell, senior vice president for consulting at Kantar. “Even in this strange Covid world we live in right now, the Olympics still command high dollars.”

In 1985, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched a global partners program that gives marketing rights to 15 companies, in exchange for funding that comprises roughly 20 percent of the IOC’s total revenue. (The rest is derived from TV sales.) Companies typically pay up to $300 million for a “quadrennium package,” granting them branding exclusivity for one set of summer and winter games. This year’s partner list includes Coca-Cola (which has been connected to the Olympics since 1928), Toyota (the official mobility partner), Samsung (the official communications partner) and Airbnb (a new worldwide partner), among others. Come July, consumers can expect to see those brands everywhere, on ubiquitous campaigns boasting the interlocking rings, torch or other famous symbols. “After we ran significant media during Olympic games, we would not only see a benefit to the business for a week or two, we would see a lift of all key metrics for six or eight weeks or more,” said Tony Pace, president of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board and former Subway CMO. “The premium you’re paying is more than justified by the longevity of the impact.”

Spots to Cheer For
Procter & Gamble has been a regular Olympic partner for a decade, and this year the consumer goods giant hopes to bring audiences together after a year of solitary division. Two short films give viewers insight into some of the athletes’ lives, including lessons learned from mothers in “Love Leads to Good” and snippets of Olympic and Paralympic pros performing inspiring acts of kindness in “Your Goodness is Your Greatness.” “It’s a good time to put these out in the world,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G chief brand officer. “The Olympics are all about uniting.” P&G brands like Pantene likewise have their own purpose-driven marketing plans. The haircare-product makers teamed with track-and-field start Allyson Felix, the only woman athlete to win six Olympic gold medals, on a motherhood-focused campaign aimed at drawing attention to the healthcare inequalities facing pregnant Black women.

Though not an official Olympics sponsor, Peloton likewise tapped Felix—along with additional champs like runner Usain Bolt, surfer John John Florence and swimmer Kathleen Baker—for an anthem film meant to ride the current pre-game marketing wave. IOC rules prevent non-sponsor brands from carte-blanche advertising when it comes to athletes competing in that year’s events, yet more companies are expected to work within those restrictions and release Olympics-related spots.

No spectators will be allowed at any events when the Games begin later in July because of Tokyo’s new state of emergency, which will run from July 12 to Aug. 22, according to BBC. Despite the hurdles, the international event is scheduled to go on. Organizers and marketers alike may be hoping that this singular Olympics will be a chance for the world to come together in a fierce show of unity, renewing our vow to continue fighting Covid-19 through a global celebration of sports.

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