Marketers See Opportunity in Rio 2016, Social Media

This summer, more than ever before, social media will alter fans’ Olympic viewing habits, presenting digital marketers with unparalleled opportunities to target viewers.

The Olympic Games is unquestionably the heavyweight title holder of international sports events (think “The Big Game” for 16 consecutive days). This summer, more than ever before, social media will alter fans’ Olympic viewing habits, presenting digital marketers with unparalleled opportunities to target viewers during the event.

The digital and social component has mushroomed compared with the most recent Summer Games in London. As viewers continue to move to mobile screens, digital ads that target mobile consumers on phones and tablets are a must-have. Mobile applications offer new and different perspectives that give users a 360-degree view of what’s going on at big events like the Olympics, increasing and deepening the sense of connection and presence. Video and user-submitted content may be watched by as many as 30 million people.

Different platforms offer different attractions, for users and for marketers.

When you talk about sports, you immediately think of Twitter. The timeliness of sports is Twitter’s bread and butter, and everyone who is covering the Olympics–particularly those with exclusive access that goes beyond what viewers can see on television–will be very strong on the platform. Twitter is where the writers and expert commentators are, and their opinions and observations will help drive traffic to articles, websites and television.

What’s different about this Olympics is that in the four years since London, Facebook has embraced video in a big way. That means users are going to see more highlights and medal-winning moments, and they’re going to get a lot more dynamic content on this platform.

For in-the-moment video, the newest player in town is definitely Snapchat. The app recently inked a deal with NBC to show Rio summer games highlights, marking the first time the network has allowed video sharing. Snapchat will create daily Live Stories combining content from NBC, athletes and sports fans at the scene.

NBC aims to reach Snapchat’s millennial audience through athletes’ stories and successes, and to have them follow the events on television or the NBC website. It’s the athlete’s personal perspectives that are really exciting here. It’s not going to be produced-content from the network; it’ll be personal and unfiltered. Audiences are also going to get a different picture of what Rio is really like. With all of the controversy about health and safety, that will translate to very interesting content.

Snapchat, of course, is not only about video and access, but also about the fun that users get from custom filters and lenses. The added interactivity is fueling its millennial adoption.

Another major platform is Instagram, where viewers can go for spectacular photography of the games and Rio itself. Video is available on Instagram, but people are accustomed to looking for photography on this site.

Here’s where fans say they’re going to consume Olympic content:


For marketers, the Olympics represents unparalleled opportunity, but with some caveats. The Olympics have some of the most valuable and jealously-protected iconic trademarks around, and if you’re not approved for use, don’t even think of adding Olympic rings to your advertising.

The markets are also world-class. Social media lets you target people based on their interests, whether that’s people following specific writers covering the Olympics, people following individual athletes or teams, or enthusiasts for specific sports. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are robust targeting platforms, and marketers can daypart that targeting to the specific times when events of interest occur.

Everyone’s interests and consumption is measured on social media, which makes for an opportunity that is radically different than the kind of firehose advertising traditionally associated with events like the Big Game. Television will continue to air high-budget, big-production commercials, while social platforms can focus on targeting users’ feeds with passion-based messaging.

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