Sponsorship has always been a key part of the Olympics experience. First of all, it helps athletes afford the expenses of non-stop travel. And, for big brands, it has always been a great way to gain brand recognition with consumers at home, glued to their TV’s for hours at a time.
And for the International Olympic Committee, it’s a great business. With a limit of 35 official exclusive sponsors in 2012, the top corporate sponsors paid over $100 million each to participate. The next tier paid $40 million each. But, while the sponsorship spend has been rocketing to record heights, technological progress has enabled even faster changes in both viewer habits and our ability to measure the results. So what are these trends and what do they portend for Olympic sponsorship in 2014 and beyond?
Over the past few years, the TV and cable industries have seen a rapid shift towards “anytime, anywhere” viewing, especially among the highly desired digitally savvy consumers. A lot of viewers now consume programs (even sports) in a time-shifted manner, on mobile devices, with at least two active screens – and frequently, all of the above! This year, NBC has decided to aggressively get ahead of the trends and dominate the shift to digital. NBC Olympics, a division of the NBC Sports Group, made a digital bet that is paying off. They are offering:
- Exclusive live streaming: Coverage in the US offering over 1000+ hours of streaming. Not only has this given them total control of US digital streaming rights of the Olympics, but also the ability to control of what ads appears as you are watching the Olympic coverage online.
- Two mobile apps: These are featured apps on the iPhone for over 2 weeks with over 1 million downloads in the iOS app store.
Other huge benefits of the “anytime, anywhere” viewing are the increase and measurability of mobile social engagement. According to Hashtracking, there are record social engagement numbers for key hashtags: #sochi2014 (3.3M tweets), #teamusa (472k tweets), #sochiproblems (371k tweets). A large share of these are coming from mobile devices. And, brands are not merely measuring impressions. They are also measuring the experience and fan bases.
Sponsors are also asking athletes to use their social media accounts to promote their brand. The agents for US figure skaters Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold both say sponsors draft some of their tweets, plugging their brands.
The trend of consumer engagement with content in a social and mobile environment is rapidly changing how brands conduct and measure their sponsorship.