As the Olympics Wind Down, Can Advertisers Claim a Win?

August 4, 2021

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 the Olympic games looked like for advertisers?


Not all challenges are new

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.


Omnichannel is always a smart bet

The main portion of the advertising around the Olympics has always been off-site, meaning that things like the no spectator rule may have relatively low impact on overall success. 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.


Measuring success over time

In such unprecedented times, it takes an advanced measurement framework such as Commercial Mix Analytics to measure the effectiveness of Olympics advertising. The biggest measurement challenges we’ve seen happen are brands trying to infer performance results with partial data – for example, measurement samples that aren’t representative because of privacy regulations – but a bigger issue is measuring the impact over the proper time horizon.


A brand realizes the impact of Olympics advertising over weeks and months, not minutes and hours. As martech has evolved over the last decade and enabled performance marketing, there’s an ability to measure some lower-funnel marketing activities in near real-time. However, that should be reserved for lower-funnel advertising that works more immediately. It’s important for the measurement to align with the intent of the advertising; the Olympics typically is a branding and awareness advertising opportunity, and that’s measured over a longer-term horizon through Commercial Mix Modeling techniques which have the ability to include both sales and brand metrics as part of the measurement framework and track performance over multiple time horizons.


In the end, the right strategy sets the winners apart

The Olympics may be the right advertising opportunity for some brands, but 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 after the closing ceremony.



  • - Fred Chassé, SVP




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