Win the Rio Olympics Advertising Race

Get ready.  The Summer Olympics in Rio are almost here!  2016 will see many familiar faces and also a very promising new class of athletes.  In addition to the exciting sporting events taking place, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has loosened its Ad Blackout policies.  What this means is you’ll likely see an increase in advertisements and branding from unofficial Olympic sponsors than from years past, and, in general, a lot more advertising!  

As the summer games only happen once every four years, they provide a unique platform to launch online marketing initiatives that, in past years, would have only been relevant to TV audiences.

Advertising and the Olympics

Advertising during the olympics goes back to the dawn of time.  We’re sure Zeus had a favorite toga he sported during the games.  

Over the years, advertising during these games has ramped up substantially.  NBC has already sold over $1billion in ad spots throughout the 17 days of events.  By contrast, London 2012 only saw this figure 2 days prior to the official start, an impressive jump in the last 4 years.  

The Olympics are the Superbowl of Advertising — shockingly the Superbowl isn’t….and that’s because the audience is much larger.  Larger as in 76% of the world’s population will be watching these games.  To put that into perspective, that’s 5.6 billion active viewers!  And of those, 942 million will be English speakers, giving you a tremendous opportunity to expose your brand.  

TV is limiting

TV is great for the big guns.  You know, your Nike and Coca-Cola, but it is limiting and pricey for smaller brands looking to make some waves during the games.  

Here are a few important things to note:

  1. Networks will increase prices at all levels (local to national)

    What would usually be a modest ad buy at the local level, will now break the bank and limit your exposure to a true national audience.  

  2. Time Zones

    The Olympics are an International event and don’t adhere to the time zone you’re in.  Based on that, it’s hard to determine when to best serve your ad on television to really hit a large audience.

  3. Inventory is limited

    Television inventory is limited and not highly targeted.  By exploring other avenues, you’ll be able to have access to much stronger users based on viewing habits, lifestyle, and demographics to really fit your brand.  

How We Consume in 2016

In 2016, we are multi-channel, multi-device consumers.  When was the last time you didn’t check your phone during a commercial break on TV?  Can’t remember?  Neither can we.  In fact, we very rarely see someone focused entirely on a television set without having a second device or screen on hand.  So while an audience is oscillating between devices, this is a perfect opportunity to serve them an ad over the web.  

We experience micro moments of television now.  We tune into what is important and then tune out to engage in another micro moment from a different outlet.  In general, we consume at a very high rate, devouring information and media and take an a la carte approach to find exactly what stimulates our micro-focus.  

This behavior will be prominent during the games.  Although there will be many active views, they will also be engaged in other media at the same time, adding an increase of browsing traffic on the web, and in turn, a great opportunity to serve ads on ad enabled website due to the increase in traffic.  

Consumers will also be reading articles on the results of the olympics and watching recap videos, all on ad enabled websites, making targeting much easier and much more pinpointed.  By staying flexible and examining real-time browsing behavior, you can target your ads at some pretty great places.  Poln can help!  

Your Target Audience

We hate to say it, but Millennials will be your target audience during these summer games.  Because they are so intertwined with technology and media, they are going to be the ones following the Olympic games online the closest.  

Millennials are also multi-taskers, using multi-devices and engaged in many different kinds of media.  Most own laptops, tablets, tvs, and smartphones and spend time using each device to view content.  

Here are some quick facts:

  1. Millennials are spending 35 hours a week with digital media and only 32 hours with traditional media (includes tv, magazines, newspapers)

  2. 75% are multi-device users

  3. 90% own a smartphone

  4. 91% own a laptop

  5. 87% do not go without their smartphone when consuming content such as videos, weather, sports scores and news, and lifestyle blogs

Most importantly, it’s not just about sports for this demographic.  In fact, the sports element almost takes a backseat.  Millennials are 2x as engaged in the lifestyle/cultural aspects surrounding the games than non-millennials.  What this means is they are interested in sharing the content, the stories and experiences of the athletes and their friends on the internet.  

Develop a Strategy

Developing an advertising strategy is crucial as the window is short and there is quite a bit of noise surrounding the event.  Understanding the events and schedule of events going on is the first and most important step of the process as this will determine when the highest browsing times will be on the web.  

Here is a list of the top athletes in the games, many leaving behind legacies, so there will definitely be buzz online during these times.  Identify the dates and times these events are happening and target campaigns surrounding them to generate greater brand awareness.  

Top Athletes

  • Michael Phelps
  • Usain Bolt
  • Pele (lighting the torch)
  • Neymar

The other important aspect to note in all of this is that people still have to go about their daily business (going to work.)  This means, they will be checking the web often to get additional insight on the games.  Don’t be afraid to run campaigns during these times as well.

The events only last 17 days, so make sure to go full steam ahead.  (protip: Poln automatically optimizes for you based on timezone and location, so you don’t have to worry).  


Technology progresses fast.  During the 2012 London Olympics much of the ad buy process was manual.  Now with real-time, programmatic buying, brands will be able to take advantage of specific instances of heightened browsing traffic.

Outside of TV, the olympics are a great time to generate brand awareness online as their will be an overall increase in users online.  Feel free to A/B test campaigns to gain insight into which ads are performing the best and then optimize from there.

Poln can help with the legwork, so get excited as it’s going to be a wild August!