When the 2016 Summer Olympics from Rio begin with the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5 (although soccer starts two days earlier), it won't be hard for people to find sports competition, and it will be equally hard to avoid the necessary evil of marketing that accompanies the Games.
According to NBCUniversal, which has exclusive broadcast rights in the U.S., "Rio 2016 remains on pace to secure the most national advertising sales ever for an Olympic Games and the most by any network for any media event in U.S. history."
Issues such as Zika, financial and political woes, water pollution and security — a force of 86,000 police and soldiers is said to be in place — notwithstanding, that confirmed a proclamation by Lisa Baird, CMO for the U.S. Olympic Committee, who said during a media event earlier this year, "We can say this is one of the most marketed games ever for both Olympic and Paralympic Games. We have 39 sponsors and we work very closely with them to develop their promotions. And I can tell you almost every one has something very special planned."
Worldwide IOC sponsors include Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Dow, General Electric, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, Toyota and Visa.
USOC partners include 24 Hour Fitness, AT&T, BMW USA, British Petroleum, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser) Chobani, CIti, Deloitte, Dick's Sporting Goods, The Hartford, Hershey, Hilton, Kellogg, Liberty Mutual, Nike, Oakley, Ralph Lauren, Smucker's, TD Ameritrade and United.
Athletes come with their own marketing rosters.
Usain Bolt, for example, seeking to add to his six gold medals in 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay, has partners including Gatorade, Virgin Media, Nissan Brazil and Puma, each of whom have unveiled multi-platform Olympics-related campaigns.
Serena Williams, who arrives as the No. 1 women's tennis player in the world, brings a marketing roster that includes Nike, Gatorade, IBM, Wilson and OPI; as well as Mission AthleteCare, Sleep Sheets and HSN, where she is an investor as well as a spokesperson.
You likely will see less ambush marketing than in past Games. Previously, marketers that were not part of the official roster but had Olympic athletes as endorsers could not advertise during a pre-set period before, during and after the Games. Now, marketers such as Under Armour that adhered to a predetermined set of guidelines and were approved by the IOC and/or the USOC can run campaigns during the Games, but are limited to their use of Olympic logos and symbols.
And there will be ample opportunity for brands to run commercials.
NBCU said it would air some 2,100 hours of Olympic linear programming across 11 networks; NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will live-stream 4,500 total hours. The previous record was 5,535 hours, set during the 2012 Summer Games in London.
NBCU, owned by Comcast, anticipates setting a viewership record, as well, topping he 2012 London Olympics, which were watched by 217 million Americans
In March, NBCU said it had passed $1 billion in national ad sales for the Summer Games, some four months earlier than when it hit the mark prior to the 2012 Summer Games, when it reached a record $1.3 billion in ad sales.
The IOC’s forecast of total revenues of $5.6 billion from 2013-16 would be a 6.2% increase compared with the 2009-12 revenues. The main driver, said the IOC, is TV broadcasting rights.
In 2014, NBCU paid $7.75 billion for the U.S. broadcast rights to the Summer and Winter Olympics from 2020-32, upping the $4.38 billion the company paid in 2011 to acquire the rights to the Games between 2014-20.
NBC has been the exclusive home for the Olympics Games since 2000.
"If you watched the trials over the last few weeks you saw more and more marketers using Olympic-themed advertising with Olympic athletes and embracing the value that the Olympics brings," Mark Lazarus, chairman for NBC Sports Group, said during a media conference this month. "And that is what makes this sport event or this global event, not even a sport event, so special.
“In a nutshell,” said Lazarus, “we are ready and Rio is ready.”