Commentary

What Rio Means For Branded Video Ads

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, August 9, 2016
The world’s largest sporting spectacle is upon us, and digital video advertisers are looking forward to seeing the rewards of the video ad campaigns they have been preparing for the last few months.

Rightfully so. Due to the growing audience for online video, the 2016 Summer Olympics is on track to be the biggest Olympics for digital video advertising yet.

Looking Back at the Trends
To understand just how far digital video advertising has come, let’s look back at some previous trends. For the 2012 Summer Olympics, 41% of viewership of games-related branded video occurred before the Olympics had even started, with 27% of total viewership occurring between the opening and closing ceremonies.

The 2014 Winter Olympics were less front-loaded, with 34% of viewership of games-related branded video occurring before the opening ceremony, and 38% of viewership happening over the course of the actual event. Based on these trends, we can expect to see this year’s event drive at least 800 million views of Olympics-related branded video.

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Historically, there have been a handful of events responsible for driving the largest online viewership for branded video, including the World Cup, the Super Bowl and the Olympics, with the Olympics coming up short compared to the others. But this year, with Olympics ads pulling in strong viewership early on in their campaign lifecycle, Olympics-branded video is likely to see Super Bowl levels of online viewership, and could even rival the 2014 World Cup’s record for the event that drove the most viewership of online ads, at just under one billion total views.

New Sponsors Join Olympic Campaigns

While many of the usual suspects like Coca-Cola, P&G, Samsung and Visa have released Olympics campaigns this year, new sponsors have joined the fray as well. Hershey’s is an Olympic sponsor for the first time, launching its campaign “Hello from Home" -- featuring gymnast Simone Biles and wrestler Jordan Burroughs -- in late June. For the campaign, the athletes’ loved ones wrote letters that Hershey’s enclosed inside chocolate bar wrappers, and delivered to the athletes in a box filled with pictures from home.

The Hershey’s campaign exemplifies a popular creative strategy for Olympics video campaigns: feature Olympic athletes and tell a story that tugs at the heartstrings or provokes inspiration.

For the 2014 Winter Olympics, 54% of branded video campaigns featured Olympic athletes, and 21% took a heartwarming/inspirational approach.

In the branded video campaigns released so far this year, those trends are even further amplified. So far, 71% of branded video campaigns for the 2016 Olympics feature Olympians, and 42% tell a heartwarming or inspirational story, evidence that audiences have not tired of this type of content yet. The 2016 Summer Olympics campaigns with heartwarming or inspirational creatives so far this year have driven 3X as many social interactions per view as creatives that use different appeals.

Even Non-Sponsors Are Getting Involved

In the past, many brands found guerrilla strategies around sporting events to be successful. For example, even though adidas was the sponsor of the 2014 World Cup, Nike was able to drive a larger viewership of its soccer-related branded content around the event, dominating viewer attention.

Similarly, while official sponsors make up the bulk of viewership of Olympics-branded videos, companies that aren’t sponsors have found ways to participate in the excitement. This year, the United States Olympic Committee made a rule change, allowing non-sponsors to include Olympic athletes in “generic” advertising during the Olympics, as long as the campaign launched before March 27 and has been running continually through the entire period leading up to and following the Olympics.

One brand leveraging this rule is Under Armour, with the campaign “Rule Yourself,” which launched in February and featured Michael Phelps and Team USA Women's Gymnastics. The campaign has been very successful, garnering 34.8 million views, which placed it third among all Olympic campaigns that have launched to date.

With an uptick in activity before the opening ceremony, and an increase in platforms where viewers can engage with branded video (Facebook and Instagram video ads didn’t exist for the 2012 Olympics), the 2016 Olympics is set to be an exciting time for video advertising.

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