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A history of Winter/Summer Games advertising – And how data-driven marketers can learn from it

The Winter and Summer Games have always been a unique opportunity for marketers.

Whether it’s winter or summer focused, this distinctive display of sportsmanship and worldwide participation has been a staple of the advertising scene for many years.

But advertising for the Winter/Summer Games has come a long way – traditional methods of advertising have evolved into an elaborate display of digital, print, social and everything in between.

Just how did advertising for the
Winter/Summer Games evolve into the high-impact and all-encompassing fare of today? And how does data factor in? Let’s take a trip down memory lane to find out.

The Winter/Summer Games begin – and so do the ads

On April 6, 1896, the Winter/Summer Games (as we know it) were held in Athens, Greece as a throwback to its roots as an ancient Greek religious festival.

Thirteen countries sent 280 male athletes to represent them in events that mirror ones we see today: track and field, swimming and gymnastics, to name a few.

The 1896 Games was also the first time that companies provided revenue through advertising (a trend of course that would continue).

In fact, 1928 saw Coca-Cola begin their longest continuous advertising partnership with the Games when they delivered 1,000 cases of soda to participants.

But the International Games Committee ruled that any advertising must be kept off the official stadium grounds.

The Games in Lake Placid in 1932 was the first to see marketing campaigns tie in the Games' themes with window displays and other advertising – a trend that will only catch on from this point onward.

TV ups the game

When TV got involved, the Winter/Summer Games really started to take on the awareness and impact in advertising that it has today.

In 1936, the Games were broadcast on television live for the first time, followed by a landmark moment in 1956 with the first international broadcast (the lost years in-between were due to the onset and effect of WWII).

The use of satellite broadcasts worldwide in 1964 and the induction of color TV in 1968 helped viewership grow exponentially for decades after the 60s had ended.

The 1994 Lillehammer Games, with broadcast and marketing campaigns combined, generated $500 million.

The 2004 Games in Athens drummed up 50 percent more than predicted revenue in national and torch relay sponsorship (they even made their target two years before the Games itself premiered).

Digital changes the game completely

The Beijing Games in 2008 trampled the competition with the most-watched Games in history – over 5,000 hours of HDTV were recorded and over 78 countries watched the athletes compete.

For the 2014 Sochi Games, it became clear that digital was changing the very nature of how viewers consumed the Games – causing a radical adoption of new platforms and technology.

As the most digitally-enabled Winter Games ever, Sochi’s Winter Games broke records in digital left and right.

With 61.8 MM unique users consuming content across NBC Sports Group’s Digital Properties, mainly due to their biggest “TV Everywhere” verified streaming audience in U.S. History, Sochi reinforced to advertisers that digital is here to stay.

Longstanding partners such as Visa spent a third of their Sochi Games budget on Digital focusing on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other mobile and social platforms to reach Winter/Summer Games fans.

And CPG brand P&G also made a big push in digital for Sochi with their Tide product on Vine.

It wasn’t just Twitter and Facebook providing data, either. Russian social network site VK.com, a name derived from, "in touch" or "in contact" in Russian, allowed brands to utilize social listening and data gathering to target Winter/Summer Games fans for their campaigns.

Data-driven marketers are positioned to win

We’ve seen that adaptation is the name of the game for successful advertising during the Games.

From then to now, it’s those brands that embrace the ever-evolving nature of the industry that win big – and since data is here to stay, data-driven techniques are sure to put marketers on the top of the podium.

Contact The Data Hotline today for help with your next Winter/Summer marketing campaign. (What's The Data Hotline?) 

Stay up to date with all the latest in data-driven news by following @OracleDataCloud on Twitter and Facebook!

Image: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

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