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2016’s Summer Games: What Global Marketers Need to Know

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Although there are less than 24 hours left before the Games officially start, the competition for many brands kicked off months ago. Revenue, sponsorship, and advertising budgets have continued to grow each year, and with the ever increasing opportunities made available to marketers, it’s no surprise that brands are spending upwards of $1 billion on Olympic agreements.

Ready for Rio

Technological advancements continue to affect the global impact of events such as these, and as social media prepares to play its most important role in an Olympics yet, all eyes are Rio. Although the 2016 games feature the strictest sponsorship rules to date, there are still a large number of opportunities for clever brands to capitalize on the real-time, second-screen viewing nature of the events.

Before we dive too deep into the current marketing landscape behind the games, let’s break down the world’s largest global sporting event into more digestible pieces (be sure to check out our infographic below too).

Rio de Janeiro by the numbers:

  • Attending athletes: 10,000+
  • Days the event runs: 19
  • Number of Olympic Sports: 42
  • Number of world-wide Olympic sponsors: 11 (Coca-Cola, Atos, Bridgestone, Dow, GE, McDonald’s, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung and Visa)

Global Changes

With so many growth factors to take into consideration when creating campaigns, two big statistics stand out - an increase in smartphones and smartphone usage, and a decline in traditional television viewership.

Since the 2012 Games, the number of smartphone users has increased by 530 million. In comparison, traditional TV viewership has decreased. However, a recent study conducted by eMarketer found that the majority of the Olympic global audiences still plan on watching the events on a television – good news for the advertisers who have collectively contributed $703 million in the U.S. alone towards TV advertising throughout the course of the event.

For the first time, Rugby and Golf are among the 42 different events that make up the 2016 competitions. However, the most popular and sought after advertising timeslots are those found during the Gymnastics or Swimming competitions. An estimated 62% of U.S. fans plan to tune into these two events, both of which ended in America bringing home quite a few gold medals back in London’s 2012 Games.

Social Media is set to alter the viewing experience for fans more than ever before, presenting digital marketers with unmatched opportunities to target audiences. In comparison to the most recent Summer Games, user numbers across all major platforms have increased dramatically, not to mention the introduction of completely new technology and channels within the past 4 years that are now considered the ‘norm’ for news and culture consumption.

360 degree video will provide global audiences with an immersive presence, while user-enabled live streaming will skyrocket spectator accessibility and connection to the games. No matter where they are watching their home team compete, these viewing options will make fans feel like they are right there in Rio.

Rio Rules & Regulations

BUT! Brands be warned, 2016 is the toughest year yet with rules and regulations relating to Olympic content. The official blackout period – July 27th through August 24th – saw a large number of athletes scurrying to promote their sponsors. Emma Coburn, an American Steeplechase competitor, tweeted:



Many others followed suit, posting pictures of apparel, equipment, and products right up until the cutoff.

Rule 40 was created to “preserve the unique nature of the Olympic games by preventing over-commercialization”, and to safeguard the official Olympic sponsors who pay for exclusive rights during the Olympic period. Of late, Rule 40 expanded to cover the complex layer that is Social Media, meaning no unofficial sponsors can associate with the Olympics on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or anywhere else.

That means these businesses are NOT allowed to:

1. Use any of the Olympics' trademarked words or phrases.
2. Use terms that reference the location of the Olympics.
3. Use words that incorporate the word "Olympic," such as Mathlympics, Aqualympics, Chicagolympics, Radiolympics, etc.
4. Use any official Olympics logos.
5. Use hashtags that include Olympics trademarks such as #TeamUSA or #Rio2016.
6. Post any photos taken at the Olympics.
7. Feature Olympic athletes in your social posts – not even to wish them luck.
8. Post any Olympic results.
9. Share anything from official Olympic social media accounts. Even retweets are prohibited.
10. Host an Olympic or Paralympic-themed contest.

The list goes on, but the above makes it clear that non-sponsor companies need to be extremely careful when participating in the social conversation. Our social media masterminds recommend joining the conversation through specific pop-culture moments that may arise, just like Oreo did with its quick-witted "you can still dunk in the dark" tweet during the Super Bowl blackout.

There is no doubt the games will spark a global digital dialogue, and the recent launch of Facebook, Snapchat, Google, and Twitter conversation tools will more than likely amplify the online banter. We’re keen to see all of the exciting, out-of-the-box ways brands – especially the non-sponsors – get involved during the international summer sporting phenomenon.

Olympic Info

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