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Leave the amateur campaigns behind: Your guide to victory for the 2020 Summer Games

The 2020 Summer Games* in Tokyo are fast approaching, and athletes are not the only ones preparing. Billions of people from all over the world are ready to tune in and watch more than 11,000 athletes represent the 206 nations that are competing to bring home a medal.

Since the first Games were held back in 1896, a lot has changed. There are new sporting events, viewers are changing the way they consume the Games, and advertisers are using innovative digital strategies to enhance their campaigns.

This massive global event provides an opportunity for advertisers to reach fans across borders. The 2016 Summer Games generated $1.2 billion total in ad sales, and 2020 is expected to surpass that amount with $1 billion already committed months before the opening ceremony. More than half of these advertisers are new to the Summer Games and are gearing into preparation mode.

With winning on everyone’s minds, our team has put together some insights and key takeaways to ensure your campaign is ready for gold.

*The official name for the Summer Games in Tokyo is trademarked, so for purposes of this article, we will be referring to the event as the Summer Games.


A brief overview of the 2020 Summer Games

The Games have been uniting nations for 2,800 years. The city of Tokyo plans to make this year’s event the most innovative in history by focusing on 3 core concepts that will be highlighted throughout the games:

  • Striving for one’s personal best

  • Accepting one another

  • Passing on a legacy for the future

With over 11,000 athletes participating in 339 events over the 17-day event starting on July 22, unity and diversity are key. The 2020 Summer Games are on track to be the most gender-equal Games ever, with a predicted 48.2% participation rate by female athletes.


Who will be watching

The 2016 Games brought high worldwide viewership, with a total audience of 3.6 billion. Here’s a breakdown of global viewership with data from the International Olympic Committee:

Latin America

  • In Argentina, 2.27 million viewers tuned into the Games

  • In Colombia, 4.6 million viewers watched on Caracol TV

  • In Brazil, 9 out of 10 who had access to TV watched at least some coverage of the Games, thanks to Grupo Globo, which led the country’s largest-ever broadcast operation


  • NBC averaged 24.49 million viewers for its live prime-time coverage

  • 50 million viewers watched coverage on web, mobile, and connected devices

  • 2.2 billion viewers used Snapchat to view Games-related content


  • The highest number of viewers in Europe was seen in the UK, with 45.25 million watching the Games.

Asia & Oceania

  • Asian viewership was driven mainly by event type: 55 million viewers tuned in to watch the men’s badminton final, the women’s marathon attracted an audience of 27.8 million viewers, and 17 million (a 22.6% share) viewed the women’s volleyball match between Japan and Korea.

  • 22.6% of the potential TV audience in Japan watched the Games.


  • 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were able to watch coverage of the Games.


While the Rio Games showcase delivered massive ratings for NBC, the linear TV numbers were down significantly compared to the record-setting 2012 London Summer Games. With an average draw of 31.1 million viewers and a 17.5 household rating, the London Summer Games were the highest-rated Olympics staged outside of the US.

The decline in linear numbers reflects the changing entertainment habits of consumers. This requires advertisers to create new approaches to reach their desired audiences during the 2020 Games.


Let the best advertiser win: Tips for victory

Tip 1: Release 2020 Games-related content well before the opening ceremony

As the events begin, campaign planners are searching for ways to reach the appropriate fans during all the excitement. To capture the right audience, Games-related content should receive proper planning months before the competition takes place.

Aligning 2020 Summer Games–related campaigns to key events throughout the year will allow brands to leverage every possible opportunity to become associated with relevant content. The graph below shows how Athletic and Games-related content trended over a 12-month span in 2019. Peak periods of engagement were during the key events: the Pan American Games and the World Athletic Championships.

Furthermore, when we analyzed content engagement through the World Athletic Championships—an event similar to the Games—in 2019, we discovered that the opening and closing ceremonies drove the peak periods of trending content, as illustrated in the graph below. This means that more people are engaging with athletics and Games-related content during these times. Apply these learnings to your 2020 Summer Games strategy by ensuring your campaign is optimized to the tentpole events that occur throughout the Games.

Key takeaways: When planning and delivering campaigns for key sporting events like the Summer Games, make sure your pacing is aligned with when the most relevant, engaging, and trending inventory is available.


Tip 2: Content categories outside of sports offer opportunities to increase scale

The Games are about more than just sports. There are broader content categories that align with the Summer Games, as shown below. These additional content categories reflect online consumer searches. For example, Travel content attracts people researching places to visit while they’re in Japan for the Games. Content categories outside of sports offer opportunities to increase scale.


Key takeaway: Target these adjacent content categories to add scale to campaigns while still reaching audiences interested in the Tokyo Games.


Tip 3: Risk still exists—take measures to keep your campaign safe

Just as with any campaign, there is the risk to become associated with terms that could harm your brand, and since the Olympics are one of the most-watched sporting events in the world, advertisers should be especially mindful during the 2020 Summer Games.

Some risks are easier to anticipate, like avoiding topics about athletes doping. But others require a more watchful eye, such as the Zika virus at the Games in Brazil. This year, Coronavirus has presented similar concerns for the 2020 Games. Our data show that not only is coronavirus the most discussed health topic across the web, but the Olympics is one of the top topics associated with coronavirus content.

It is imperative to expand your reach but also maintain brand safety. Utilizing contextual targeting can provide advertisers with the desired reach without appearing across toxic topics. Advertisers must stay on top of Games-related controversies and adjust campaigns to ensure brand safety. Download our Brand Safety Guide to learn more about avoiding harmful content while maintaining reach and providing relevant content to your audience.


Tip 4: Target the most popular trending sports

Each Olympics has its own stand-out events and athletes, and sometimes these are unpredictable. For example, most fans wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Gymnastic content sees a 146% increase in trending content during international events versus a non-event period, the largest for any Games-related event. But for this year’s games, Skateboarding and Surfing are also trending because of content created to highlight that they’re new sports for Tokyo 2020.

Key takeaway: Sporting events are unpredictable by nature; use dynamic targeting to uncover moments at the Games that capture the world’s attention as they happen, regardless of the sport.

Get your campaign in the game

The 2020 Summer Games will generate buzz online and off as the whole world watches. From reaching viewers with relevant advertising at moments of high intent to analyzing content with trending topics beyond sports, brands can set up their campaigns for victory.

The research and insights provided here will get your brand in front of the right audience without harming your brand. Use the above strategy recommendations to meet your KPIs and deliver on your clients’ goals.


Want to employ pre-determined, relevant 3rd party audiences and contextual segments for your 2020 Summer Games campaigns? Contact your Oracle Data Cloud account rep to activate today!

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