Olympic audiences focusing more on non-TV platforms — and advertisers must follow
Hollie Shaw | Aug 17, 2012 6:00 AM ET
The London 2012 Olympic Games proved that many people prefer to watch sporting events in a variety of non-televised forms, with a plethora of live streaming and archived events viewable online, on desktop or mobile devices.
The decision to eschew certain time-delayed TV broadcasts in favour of mobile Games-watching will significantly alter Olympic advertising in the future and the way sponsors integrate with the events they promote, says Sasha Grujicic, executive vice-president of strategy, digital and insight at Toronto-based media agency Aegis Media North America.
London 2012 was unique for its increase in overall Olympic viewership, Mr. Grujicic said, but with a seemingly lower-than-expected number of viewers who watched events on television.
“Broadcasters [in London] were saying that overall viewership was trending upward, so more people were interested in the Olympics. But the way in which the people were watching the Olympics was different than expected.”
While the final Olympic consumption data has not yet been released by Bell Media and Rogers Communications, who had partnered for the broadcast rights for Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Games, Mr. Grujicic anticipates digital consumption will show a significant spike.
“The expectation is always set from the sponsor’s perspective: expected deliveries of online would have X-million numbers of streams or page views, and you would sell that [media] inventory based on what [that platform] expected to generate over the couple of weeks of the Olympics,” Mr. Grujicic said.
In the case of London, he said, early reports were “way exceeding the digital mobile and tablet tracking figures, and the television coverage was underdelivering. On net, the viewership was up, but the composition was different than expected.”
The trend builds upon the digital momentum of Vancouver 2010, “a landmark event in the emergence of mobile phones as a multi-media platform,” said the International Olympic Committee in a report after the event.
The Vancouver 2010 website drew 275 million visitors, more than double the 105 million visitors for the Beijing 2008 site. Official broadcasting websites recorded more than 1.2 billion page views, and delivered more than 265 million video views, for a total of 38.3 million hours of viewed videos.
The growth in digital provides a wealth of branding opportunities for sponsors, Mr. Grujicic said, and could also persuade sponsors to look more at audience tracking numbers cumulatively, over several platforms, rather than focusing on the mass reach numbers they would typically seek.
Aegis’s Olympic sponsor clients include Rona, Procter & Gamble and Adidas.
In the past, he said, TV stations were the sole content source and provider of the Olympics. They presented a package and decided for viewers the “must see” events — switching from fencing to a judo final, for example.
The customization of online viewing will allow sponsors to tailor their communications in a way they never could before, given that the way people consume on mobile and tablet and PC is totally customized. “[A viewer] might say ‘I don’t care about fencing, I only care about judo. So rather than having these mass reach moments, as with television, you have to build reach cumulatively across the entire Games.”
Anthony Kalamut, professor in the creative advertising program at Seneca College in Toronto, said large brands seem more willing to embrace new metrics than they were two years ago.
“Chief marketing officers have got to understand: the numbers may not be as understandable or as direct as measured, traditional medias are,” Mr. Kalamut said.
“But if a CMO is smart enough to listen to [Montreal agency] Sid Lee, who is always looking at something new, they would not have an issue, I think, with Rona moving on to a digital platform.”
Looking ahead to the next Olympic Games, he said, brands may have their own channel through which viewers can access content and could be a good testing ground for sponsored content.
He noted that studies suggest many people are willing to view an ad if they get the content they want. “If I get my Olympics and I have to go to my [Procter & Gamble] page or McDonald’s page in order to get it, I will do it because ultimately I am getting what I want. There will always be the curmudgeons in the corner who don’t like it.”
A big test will be the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, Mr. Grujicic said, given the nine-to-12-hour time difference from North America.
“It has massive implications. The events of a particular day will be half over by the time we wake up on the east coast and they will be totally over by the time we wake up on the west coast. So it becomes a matter of how you are actually experiencing the Games.”
Another model could involve a digital paywall for access to certain Games coverage, Mr. Grujicic said, such as less popular sports or sports without Canadian content.
“We know that digitally it is harder to monetize content like it is on television so it’s going to beg for some alternatives and that just may be one of them where the users pay for the specific feeds that they want, or advertisers pay to unlock it for a certain number of people,” he said.