Every four years, the world’s top athletes converge to compete on the world stage. For marketers, this year’s Games of the XXXI Olympiad, a.k.a. the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, will find them vying in a media landscape that’s very different from the 2012 games in London.
Among the changes: the ascendance of Snapchat, Facebook’s emergence as a video platform and vehicle for messaging, and a huge growth in mobile. In fact, while the 2012 Olympics were nicknamed the “Socialympics” because, for the first time, social media was front and center in marketing, 2016 might be remembered as the “Mobilympics.”
“2012 was the first time we experimented with real-time social at the Olympics, and this time we see it as the year of mobile,” said Mainardo de Nardis, the CEO of OMD Worldwide.
No doubt about it, brands have become better at creating content designed for mobile engagement since 2012, De Nardis said. The ability to track usage is also much improved. “The data we have on geolocation and which screens are being used is far superior to what we had then,” he told CMO.com.
Brands are also smarter about their role in the event, de Nardis said. “We don’t want the brands to be responsible for managing the news about the sports,” he said. “The brands are part of it, but they’re not newscasters. They’re there to engage and to entertain.”
Doing so may be easier this time around. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which governs the use of media related to the games, last year relaxed Rule 40, which forbade athletes from using their names and likenesses for advertising during the games. “It’s another way for the brands to be able to penetrate the show, which was not possible in the past,” de Nardis said.
It’s unclear whether that means nonsponsors can interview spokespersons/athletes on camera during the games.
“While the IOC’s Rule 40 does not explicitly address live interviews, my understanding is that [interviews] should be allowed for both athlete sponsors who obtained the waiver, as well as official sponsors, provided they complete the application process to the IOC, follow the usage guidelines, and avoid the inadmissible practices as spelled out in Rule 40,” said Jim Andrews, SVP of marketing for sports marketing agency ESP Properties. Reps from the IOC could not be reached for comment
Mobile Hand Washes Social
Despite the talk of mobile, John Kristick, global CEO of ESP Properties, said he expects social to remain the dominating technology at the games. “I think social is very much still at the center,” he told CMO.com. “For certain, mobile is the medium, but the most effective strategies around the games are still going to center on that social aspect.”
A 2015 Forrester Research study found consumers spend 85% of their smartphone time on mobile in apps. The majority of that time is spent within just five apps, including Facebook, which gets the lion’s share of that time. In other words, to penetrate mobile, marketers need to penetrate social. In the context of the Olympics, social media activity is happening on mobile
“It’s almost like desktop doesn’t necessarily exist,” said Lindsay Sutton, VP/group director of social strategy at DigitasLBi. “The Olympics is one of those events–like the World Cup–where you participate through your primary device and also a TV because you’re also in a setting where you’re watching as a group. That second-screen thing we talked about so many years ago is still a real thing we definitely want to plan for.”
That planning includes command centers that brands are employing to provide a stream of content and react in real time during the games. De Nardis said at least one client, Nissan, is planning to run a command center this time around. “I think it’s fascinating creating these war rooms, which really generate content while the thing’s happening, while the stories are being created,” he said.
Much of the distribution of those stories will occur on Instagram and Snapchat, De Nardis added. The latter, which was much smaller in 2012, will be a large channel for brands and media this year. In April, NBC announced a deal with Snapchat to set up a dedicated channel on the mobile app for the games. Snapchat will create daily “live stories” using content from sports fans and athletes there.
The move comes after Snapchat covered the Super Bowl and Academy Awards in early 2016 for the first time. The platform said it is able to reach more than 30 million people–most of them in the desirable Millennial demographic.
David Berkowitz, an independent marketing consultant, agreed that Snapchat will be huge this year, as will live streaming video. However, virtual reality will remain a novelty, and marketers will still struggle to figure out how to harness messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. “It’s still a little bit early,” he told CMO.com. “It’s really hard right now to use bots on Messenger for campaign-driven things.”
Lessons From 2012
Though 2016’s media environment is different than 2012’s, marketing messages from previous Olympics still resonate and continue to be used. In particular, Procter & Gamble’s well-received ad campaign, themed “Thank you, Mom,” during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was resurrected for London and now Rio. The campaign boosted its sales $500 million after London, according to the company.
That’s not its only measure of success. “The number that impressed us was the effectiveness of the advertising, which was 39%--much higher than [other Olympic ads for brand recall],” de Nardis said. The campaign also had 62% higher message recall.
Nevertheless, U.K. researcher Sociagility’s analysis of the 2012 games (based on popularity, receptiveness, interaction, network, reach, and trust) found Coca-Cola, not P&G, the most effective at leveraging its brand across social media during the games. The report also noted that Cadbury, BMW, and P&G started promoting their affiliation well before the games started. Though the first two became less dominant as the games kicked in, P&G managed to stay at a certain level thanks to “its well-thought-out ‘moms’ strategy.”
As for Coca-Cola, the brand tried to produce content at the event that was “liquid and linked,” as Christy Amador, a senior communications manager, later explained. “Liquid,” in this case, meant it could be distributed into different forms of media. “Linked” meant that all the content linked back to a common theme.
In 2012, music was a key element of Coke’s “Move to the Beat” theme. The company recruited global music stars Mark Ronson and Katie B. and released a slew of media including a documentary, songs, a TV show called Beat TV, and social and mobile apps. As a result, Coke said it was the most-talked-about brand during the games.
Despite that success, Coca-Cola’s 2016 “That’s Gold” Olympics campaign will have a different theme–that there’s more to competing than winning the gold. Tapping into a similar vein as P&G, the campaign looks at the relationships–including parental relationships–that help athletes become competitors.
Brands such as Coke and P&G are wise not to get hung up on media for media’s sake, ESP Properties’ Kristick said. “The best sponsors are able to take advantage of these tools to provide consumers with access, but they still weave in their brand values,” he added. “They still get their brand stories in, but they connect them to the passion point of sports.”