Making most of the Olympics opportunity

After a year of suspense, the Olympics are finally here. As 12,000 athletes from 205 countries descend upon Japan’s capital city of Tokyo, marketers gear up for what could be the biggest sporting spectacle of the year. As the athletes compete for the top honors across 339 events in 50 distinct disciplines, here’s a look at how marketers can make the last minute tweaks to their existing marketing strategies to sync their performance with the athletes looking to make history.

While most marketers are already set, some are still uncertain about their marketing efforts during the Olympics even with only a few days to go (primarily owing to the uncertain nature of the event itself ). Using our massive data reserves and historical learnings, we present a few ways in which marketers can tweak their existing marketing plans to make the most of the Olympic opportunity.

TV still a primal channel to reach audiences

With no spectators allowed in arenas, TV and streaming services will remain the primary mode through which global audiences will connect with all the action. The recently concluded international sporting events like Euros and Wimbledon (where limited spectators were allowed) again highlighted how sporting audiences across the globe continue to remain engaged in sport and why advertising during live sporting events still remains an important part of marketers’ strategies. 

After an inevitable pause in 2020, sporting events are coming back to life in 2021. Analyzing the viewership trends around the UEFA Euro Cup 2020 gives us a fair insight into the excitement around sports viewership. The viewership is only anticipated to increase in the Olympics. 

While 88% of total viewers watched the Euros live, 12% tuned in later to catch the delayed highlights of the games. 70% of live viewers watched the Euros on linear TV platforms, while the remaining audience tuned in through OTT channels or apps. OTT viewers are more likely to watch delayed programming than live games. While the audience for the Olympics may vary, the increasing share and attention among both live and catch-up sports viewers on OTT platforms and apps is an exciting opportunity for marketers to make the most of.


Furthermore, the ability to reach high value audiences on these emerging platforms offers brands the chance to experiment with high impact creative formats that can be personalized to a specific audience. 

Youtube is likely to be a game changer

With significant time differences between Japan and countries across Europe and the Americas, catching events live might not be feasible for everyone (especially over weekdays). This is where YouTube could be a major source of coverage for Olympic fans across the Western hemisphere. Byte-sized highlights and key event updates are likely to see a higher takeup among Olympic fans.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing and, with audiences engaged now more than ever across the popular video streaming platform, user engagements across channels showcasing the interest around topics like best moments from past Olympics is skyrocketing. User engagement has doubled globally over the last 90 days with the audience across the Eastern hemisphere being a tad bit more excited about the sporting extravaganza.

Going by the early surge in interest around Olympics related content on YouTube across the globe, we expect this to be a major platform where audiences across different personas will engage heavily during the event. Search interest around certain events may vary regionally: track and field and gymnastics are extremely popular categories in the US, while diving and weightlifting draw more attention in ANZ. Badminton and table tennis are being followed more heavily among audiences in SEA.

Spikes in interest around certain sporting events and athletes will provide opportunities for content creators and marketers to engage with distinct audiences over the platform. That means agile trading approaches are needed to pivot activation strategies as the tournament goes along. Supplementing current activation strategies across the platform with simple social listening tools across popular fan forums can help marketers to remain cognizant of the general pulse around different events and optimize their targeting activations accordingly.

The impact on programmatic inventory 

During the course of the last Olympics, we saw a 13% increase in consumption of content on sports and news domains globally, with Olympic audiences across the ANZ and the SEA accounting for a much higher (+73%) interest in Olympics content than their American and British counterparts (+11%). This fact could be attributed to the time difference between the two regions which forced a lot of these audiences to stay updated through news rather than catching the events live.

We also saw a general increase in the cost of relevant programmatic inventories during weeks two, three and four of August for desktop inventory, and in week three specifically for mobile in-app inventory costs, with heavy regional variations. While inventory prices remained fairly stable across the board in the US, there was a considerable upsurge in CPMs on mobile in-app and mobile web inventory in CA, UK and Australia. CA saw a surge of 74% in the price of mobile web inventory, while the CPM across in-app inventory in the UK and CA grew by almost 50% during the Olympics. These unanticipated changes made reaching the digital Olympics fans a little bit more expensive.

The increase in inventory costs across CA and UK left marketers struggling to achieve their CPA goals. But, in the US, stable inventory prices and increased engagement levels resulted in the average network-level CPA improving by 20%, with mobile being a clear winner.

While mobile has gone from strength to strength since then, the emergence of new channels like Connected TV, gaming consoles and even programmatic audio means marketers have a lot more options for reaching engaged audiences to replicate the success they saw from ad serving across mobile platforms.


Reaching Olympics enthusiasts online

While most advertisers look for contextual relevance or behavioral traits when looking for sporting audiences online, it is interesting to note that a higher demand across these limited contextually relevant domains during events like the Olympics often correspond to higher CPMs which eventually puts stress on CPA goals. That means it’s imperative to find other ways to reach the right audiences while not sacrificing campaign goals.

While analyzing recent browsing patterns of core American Olympics enthusiasts, we found a significant proportion of them can also be found across career and educational site domains as well as sports and news domains. Similarly, beauty and fitness and hobby-related domains attracted attention from British and Canadian Olympics fans. The Aussie Olympic fans, meanwhile, could also be reached across pets and finance domains.

While desktop and mobile offer incredibly high reach for programmatic campaigns, the recent popularity of CTV and OTT platforms offers a much more effective way of reaching highly engaged audiences while also providing scope for incremental reach.

By setting up or syncing connected omnichannel campaigns, advertisers and brands can look to bridge the exposure gap and also enhance the customer experience by boosting the chances of drawing conversions. Geo-contextual targeting strategies are another alternative for brands looking to enhance awareness among relevant audiences. For marketers with performance goals, using the full potential of first party data along with a strong measurement strategy can help brands achieve their business outcomes. 

To read more about what marketers need to know going into the Olympics download our Olympics report.