Commentary

'Most Marketed Olympic Games Ever': Kill Me Now

The upcoming Zika -- er,sorry, Rio Games -- will be "one of the most marketed games ever for both Olympic and Paralympic Games" the CMO for the U.S. Olympic Committee said this week. "When that all comes together, what you hope as a marketer is that it really breaks through on the American consciousness," she also said, focusing more on her enthusiasm than sentence construction.

I suppose if you are one of the 39 sponsors (both global and domestic), this is music to your ears. But if you are a fan of the Olympics, you think about three minutes of competition, five minutes of ads, three minutes of competition, five minutes of promos, three minutes of competition, five more minutes of ads...ad nauseam.

With only a two-hour difference between Rio time and NYC (five for you Left Coasters) there will be a tendency to watch events in real-time. Let the suffering begin.

If the TV industry has learned anything in this new time-shifting/ad-skipping era, it’s that live events are where the money is.

That's why they can charge $5 million for a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl, and why they promote the ever-living hell out of awards shows like the Oscars (which is so boring its audience falls more and more every year, but is still massive compared to routine prime time.) And why they invent live broadcasts like the NFL draft.

Speaking of, let's use a pro football game for our example. Broadcasts of games run somewhere between three and four hours.

Somebody with too much time on their hands calculated that the ball is in play for only about 10 minutes of that time. The rest is shots of the sidelines, the cheerleaders, injury time-outs, the domed stadium roof as seen from a totally unnecessary blimp, and quarterbacks changing the play at the line.

So what does the network that paid billions for the broadcast rights do? They monetize that three-and-a-half hours of dead time with commercials and promos.

Which means by the middle of the first quarter, viewers are ready to jump off the nearest bridge.  The only redeeming thing the network does is swell the "football theme" music as they fade to commercial, giving you plenty of time to switch over and watch a rerun of an "NCIS" because 1) the plot of every show is identical; and 2) there is always a rerun on somewhere, regardless of your time zone.

If the game is good and you are compelled to follow it down to the last Hail Mary, you will have seen nearly every commercial about four times. This will make you hate the brands and swear never to buy the products. Especially when you then watch the 4 p.m. game, and they run the same frickin' commercials. And god forbid, the Sunday or Monday night games are good match-ups.

To kill time in Olympic broadcasts, they run annoying "biographies" of the athletes that, because they are mostly "amateurs," are less about spousal abuse and drunk-driving charges and more about siblings with diseases and sharing their skills with some subset of the underprivileged. Yet these spots too are merely anchors for more commercials or promos.

In addition to running the same commercials for three weeks, the "official sponsors" challenge their agencies to "break through the clutter" and come up with all sort of contests, aisle displays, "consumer experiences,” social media campaigns and PR to assure their brands squeeze every nickel out of the cost of the Olympic rights. Along the way, they drive audiences far and wide to madness.

Excepting the parents of the athletes, pretty much no one in the country cares that you are an "official Olympic sponsor." Consumers see it for the crass attention-grab that it is.

Want to be a real Olympic hero? Underwrite a team's training and travel for four years and don't tell ANYONE about it.  You can issue one press release at the start of the training and one at the ending of the games congratulating your athletes.

Now that is a brand I would buy.

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