Tokyo Olympics 2020: The Top Advertising Trends

KLIK Staff

July 29, 2021

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Unparalleled feats of athletic ability. An inspiring display of international unity. And thousands upon thousands of ads. Following a one-year delay, the 2020 2021 Summer Olympics are well underway in Tokyo, Japan, with full state-side coverage provided by NBC. Despite COVID-19 mandated changes to the proceedings, one element that hasn’t changed is the deluge of advertising opportunities. As linear ratings continue to decline, NBC has bet big on audiences turning out for the competition, selling out $1.25 billion in advertising slots. Here’s KLIK’s take on the most innovative marketing and advertising trends we’ve seen in 2021, as well as key differences to this year’s competition advertisers should take note of.

A Pivot to Peacock

Die-hard Olympic fans might have noticed the viewing experience has been slightly different for this edition of the games. NBC owner Comcast has pushed live and highlights coverage of several marquee sports like gymnastics and swimming to its streaming service, Peacock. While the success of the attempt to bolster the ad-supported streaming service remains to be seen, marketers should take note of the growing ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) market. These streamers, like Peacock and ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV, are typically free to consumers, but typically offer advanced digital targeting and measurement options to advertisers. With the AVOD revenue set to hit $66 billion by 2026, and major conglomerates like NBC pushing clients towards omnichannel buying, the Olympics might be the push consumers need to get on board with ad-supported streaming.

Experiential Campaigns

While TV ads certainly aren’t going anywhere, NBC still sold out of its 15,000 ad units across more than 100 buyers, brands have to get a little more creative to stand out from the pack. Increasingly popular are direct-to-consumer and multi-channel campaigns. Half of consumers are planning to stream live events online, especially Gen Z consumers, who are most drawn to innovative brands, according to GWI.

Unsurprisingly, Olympics TikTok content has repeatedly gone viral, with fans eager to catch behind-the-scenes glimpses from their favorite personalities. We’ve also seen next-level campaigns to help consumers feel more connected to the event, despite travel restrictions. These include AirBnB’s ability to experience live video calls with more than 200 Olympians and Paralympians and the IOC’s 24-hour workout livestream. Comcast itself is also getting in on the high-tech fun with a group of ads featuring footage from this year’s game, which aired only hours previously.

A Games Like No Other

It’s certainly inarguable that this edition of the Olympics has been marred with more challenges than almost any other games of the modern eras. Advertisers looking to capitalize on the feel-good and inspirational energy of the event have faced concerns about the more somber tone of the crowd-less games, delayed one year due to COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the games remain unpopular in their host country causing Japanese giant Toyota to pull all advertising in its home country.

NBC has faced further challenges at home, with declining ratings, which some blame on the more muted theatrics of the opening ceremony or early exits by superstars Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka. With viewership of the opening ceremony alone down 36% from 2016, media buyers are calling on the network to enter into a “make goods” discussion, which would see additional ad inventory given to sponsors who did not receive their promised impression numbers. However, NBC is encouraging advertisers to hold the line, noting strong streaming numbers, with more than 735 million total minutes streamed, up 24% from 2016, as well as the additional days of competition that remain.

Despite it all, the Olympics still offer fans jaw-dropping moments and inspiring stories they can’t get anywhere else. Here are some of our favorite brands riding the Olympics wave.

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