Are You Ready to Go Social with the Summer Games?

By Aaron Goldman, CMO, Mediaocean

Sadly, for England fans, football will have to wait a little while longer to come home. But marketers should not wait to apply lessons learned from the tournament to the next big sporting event of the summer.

Euro 2020 was the tournament in which sports consumption went truly social. With public venues in many countries still subject to social distancing or lockdown restrictions, fans took to more accessible digital channels in greater numbers than ever before, and the Tokyo Olympics is sure to continue that trend.

Indeed, the summer games have a truly global reach beyond what even the Euros enjoy: recent research we conducted in partnership with GWI shows that the Olympics will draw 64% of internet users globally. So, this year’s Olympics in Japan could well put football back on the bench when it comes to digital sports consumption.

While spectator numbers in Tokyo will be heavily restricted, the event will still draw in remote audiences from across the globe. The time differences involved will mean that, for many, events will be broadcast at unsociable hours, with the upshot that huge numbers of people will consume Olympics content via catch-up as well as turning to social media and digital channels to read results, get involved in post-mortems and join the inevitable meme trains.

The starting gun for change

The changing way that sports fans engage with and around large-scale events like the Olympics is a starting gun for a new approach to marketing. The power of social media to reach audiences is no secret, and it’s time for marketers to market the way consumers consume. The seismic disruption of the past year and the resulting, ongoing restrictions on in-person attendance have dramatically accelerated patterns of consumption, and that cannot be ignored.

The existence of multiple channels in the sports experience may not be news, but our research with GWI indicates how central these elements have become. 60% of global Olympics fans browse the internet or use social media while watching events, for instance, while 77% admitted to sometimes or always watching professional sports games online and 63% take to the internet to watch recaps and highlights.

These data points highlight an opportunity for brands to reach their audiences at peak times during live broadcasts, but also to consider highlights shows and recap pages as part of the overall mix, given that a clear majority of Olympics fans will be watching and interacting with post-event content online.

A lot has been written about how these tournaments provide an opportunity to come out in full advertising force, which will be especially valuable after a difficult year for marketing. The key to success in this new era of cross-channel consumption will be understanding how that disruption has altered audience attitudes and behaviours, and managing brand messaging and placement accordingly.

Going for multi-screen gold

The modern sports fan engages fluidly with events like the Olympics. They might switch between two or even three screens during a live broadcast, messaging friends and following trending topics on social media. Different platforms offer specific experiences that audiences have come to expect as part of a cohesive whole.

When audiences have this kind of choice, and even the ability to react with their own content as things go viral, the effectiveness of pre-planned, big-bang campaigns is much lessened and even, perhaps, outdated. Those in media creative, planning, and buying will have to adapt, learning to deliver agile, in-the-moment content which has the ability to be moulded for different use cases.

The scope of this challenge is huge, but then so is the opportunity. The data made available through these cross-channel interactions gives brands more insight into the minds of consumers than ever before, and though the data is fragmented, with intelligent use it can be consolidated into an omnichannel view which harmonises the full lifecycle of a marketing campaign, from strategy to measurement.

I like to think of this in terms of how individual countries perform in the Olympics themselves. While a country like Jamaica might excel at short-distance running, it ends up quite far down the overall rankings at the end of the tournament because sprinting is, after all, just one facet of the entire games (however glamorous).

In much the same way, brands that fail to bring together a diverse range of specialised marketing elements – from targeted ads to social interaction – and build them into a holistic experience will, ultimately, fail to medal when the results are in.

As the games play out, now is the time to put everything you’ve been working on into practice. Just don’t forget, as with the events themselves, anything can happen, so track everything, remain agile, and be ready for rapid response on social media and beyond. Good luck – I’ll see you on the podium!

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