In the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) quest to offer brands access to huge, captive audiences in ways that are inherently not disruptive to their viewing experience—think stadium signage, on-screen bumpers, branded equipment and athlete apparel—it has presented a new challenge to advertisers who need to understand the impact of their investment in this more unpredictable and difficult-to-measure environment.
Until recently, an inability to measure sponsorships with any real precision has been the unspoken tradeoff for advertising during big-stage events like the Olympics. Brands welcomed the alternative approach to getting in front of TV viewers, considering traditional forms of TV advertising are increasingly expensive with a weaker payoff.
The reality is that when commercials come on, viewers tune out; brands need to be a part of the action to ensure they get the proper engagement. They also need to understand whether their brand was seen and visible to passive viewers and whether this awareness drove action. Oh, and they want to know it now, not 30 days from now.
Here are three questions this week’s Olympics advertisers should be asking:
Sponsorships are more affordable, but are brands getting the same exposure? “How many times did my brand’s logo appear on screen?” “Will my ad will be presented clearly enough to be understood and absorbed by viewers?” “How might this influence the likelihood of audiences taking action as a result?”
There are currently a handful of metrics out there that attempt to offer this type of clarity, but they have their shortcomings. Some measure mere logo appearances, but don't account for whether the logo is presented fully on screen, at a size that would be naturally detected by the human eye, nor how much time the logo must be present for a passive viewer to absorb it.
Brands gain value when they have access to more meaningful TV data (e.g., timestamp, station and DMA, and in-program vs. paid distinction). Not only does this data prove the sponsorship has been seen, but by attributing accurate audience and media values, brands can begin to understand which activations are successful.
On digital channels, advertisers can answer key questions, such as, “How many times did my target audience see my ad?” “What was the resulting action from that household: did they visit a nearby store? Go to our website? Follow us on social?”
Gaining this level of understanding of the TV viewer is a lot different—and far more difficult—than gaining the same understanding of the online or mobile user, especially for sponsorships.
But TV data is finally reaching the depth and sophistication of its digital counterparts. Smart TVs and Internet-connected devices are helping brands uncover advanced behavioral profiles of their TV viewers, and linking these audiences to resulting online and mobile actions via IP address tracking.
It used to be that brands had to wait a minimum of 30 days to see how their TV investments faired, and only very recently have they had the data on where their logos appeared beyond their paid appearances. Now they can do all of this, not just for themselves but also their competitors, within hours after the broadcast airing. That means brands not only have access to such massive amounts of data, but they receive it as their tactics are in motion, allowing them to quickly optimize activations when needed.
It is not only up to brands to find ways to track the value of their sponsorships; the IOC—and other event sponsors, stadiums and arenas—should also be tracking these things to prove value to their sponsors. After all, when audiences take notice, CMOs take notice.