Making the Most of the Social Summer Games

Aug 05, 2016

I’m a millennial, and my generation wants things now. We expect to have what we want, when we want it and where we want it. This fact influences how millennials consume and engage with content. Whether it’s cat videos, news articles or Pokemon Go, we expect to always have entertainment options available at our fingertips.

If you’re curious as to how this mindset would affect Summer Games viewership for the millennial audience, that makes two of us. NBC executives are promising more live television coverage than ever before, as well as over 4,500 hours of content streamed live online. The possibilities for viewing the 2016 Summer Games are seemingly endless. In the U.S., our viewing options include broadcast networks (NBC and Telemundo, for Spanish viewers), cable channels (Bravo, CNBC, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network, NBC Universo and USA Network), and online streaming ( and the NBC Sports app). With so many viewing options, how will the millennial audience tune in?

Millennials and the Olympics

According to research conducted by Rubicon Project, where over 1,000 individuals were surveyed, 79% of millennials plan to watch the Summer Games via online streaming, with 7 out of 10 planning to stream via their mobile device. It’s also interesting to note that 82% of millennials will have a second screen open “most or all of the time” while consuming the event coverage. The cross-device consumption is a huge opportunity for NBC, as well as advertisers, to reach a large portion of the millennial audience.

Social media has become an integral part of the way that millennials view live sporting events. NBC is hoping to utilize social media channels to engage with the millennial audience, and in turn lead to increased viewership among this demographic. With a heavy focus on Snapchat, NBC has a deal in place to allow the social platform to show highlights of the Games on its platform. The network has also partnered with BuzzFeed to create content for Snapchat, as well as other social media channels. Finally, two weeks before the Games, NBC announced a partnership with Facebook that will allow the social platform to publish up to 20 highlights per day, plus a two-minute daily recap. NBC hopes that engaging with the millennial audience through social media channels will lead to increased viewership for the Games. These partnerships, coupled with the fact that users’ time on social media continues to increase, promise to make this the “most social Games ever.”

NBC isn’t the only stakeholder to benefit from millennials and their social media consumption (addiction). Many brands are looking to capitalize on the socially-engaged millennial audience during The Games. While broadcast campaigns continue to allow tremendous reach to generate awareness for a brand, social media campaigns allow for much more targeted advertisements. Many social media platforms now allow for demographic and behavioral targeting, and even provide the opportunity to target advertisements by time of day, to allow for association with specific events of the Games. Advertisers just have to be careful to follow the very specific guidelines provided by the Games’ official committee (USOC) for tweeting and sharing about the events.

Though the USOC has implemented strict guidelines as to how non-sponsors can use the Games’ intellectual property (they can’t), there is still opportunity to be a part of the conversation. Brands who allow their marketing team freedom to take advantage of the big moments can capitalize on the key conversations around the event. In any major event, there are moments that transcend the event itself, such as the lights going dark during Super Bowl XLVII. If you’re nimble, it’s possible for advertisers to be part of the conversation and find opportunities to interact in an engaging way when the opportunity presents itself. The lights aren’t going to go out at the Games*, but there will be opportunities to associate with certain events or spectacular feats that generate buzz and excitement.

These events are the largest in international sports; 16 days of our greatest athletes performing with the world watching. Millennials will be tuned in across multiple devices and platforms. The possibilities for advertisers are many, but a tactical approach is necessary to put together an effective and efficient campaign. As with any advertising opportunity, the brands that are able to tell a story and interact with their consumers in an engaging way will be the ones to stand out above the clutter.

*Actually, the lights may go out. The list of infrastructure concerns as well as healthcare concerns leading up to the Games is long.

– Robert Wilson, Senior Media Planner/Buyer