We use cookies. You have options. Cookies help us keep the site running smoothly and inform some of our advertising, but if you’d like to make adjustments, you can visit our Cookie Notice page for more information.
We’d like to use cookies on your device. Cookies help us keep the site running smoothly and inform some of our advertising, but how we use them is entirely up to you. Accept our recommended settings or customise them to your wishes.

Team USA Sponsors Excelled at Expanding Ad Campaign Reach through Digital

The 2016 Summer Olympics proved interesting for advertisers for a couple of different reasons.

With updates to the much reported on International Olympics Committee (IOC) marketing restrictions, we expected the playing field to open up and see more companies advertising during the Olympic Games.

On top of that, as noted by IOC marketing guidelines, with the increased digital viewership, social activity, Olympic app downloads, and online news sources, we anticipated advertisers - global IOC sponsors, Team USA sponsors, and non-sponsors alike - to up their digital efforts to match increased digital coverage for a fully integrated marketing effort.

To measure digital investment relative to traditional marketing efforts, we, with the help of media technology company 4C Insights, looked at top TV advertisers over the course of the Games beginning with the opening ceremony August 5th through the closing ceremony August 21st. The charts below feature the average number of TV ads and social posts (on Facebook and Twitter) for advertisers of each sponsorship type.

As you can see, we found an inverse relationship between level of Olympic sponsorship and investment in TV advertising, while we saw US National Sponsors leading the way in social content produced. Top level IOC sponsors averaged 520 socials posts and 60 TV ads; Team USA sponsors 960 social posts and 140 TV ads; and non-sponsors 640 social posts and 225 TV ads.

We were initially surprised that the highest level of sponsorship did not correlate with the most produced TV and social content. However, after watching the Olympics, the dividends of being a global sponsor were clear. Brands and logos received exposure in televised events and NBC shared clips online.

For example, as the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Games, Omega’s brand was inherently tied to the success of Katie Ledecky and Usain Bolt. With so much visibility, IOC sponsors could rely more heavily on user generated content and content pushed by other third parties like NBC.

Nevertheless, as audiences continue to move online, we believe digital efforts across all channels are increasingly crucial for capturing the demand created. It will be interesting to see how brands adjust their marketing strategies in future Games as more advertisers enter the space.

On the other hand, non-sponsors had to take a different approach by focusing on both TV and digital content to bring their brands into the Olympics conversation. Knowing that their brand names weren’t layered into the actual broadcast of the games and balancing the fact that they couldn’t use Olympic intellectual property, non-sponsors compensated with content volume. Team USA sponsors fell somewhere on the spectrum between the two as they reaped some of the benefits of an IOC sponsor, but not enough to rest on their laurels.

Given IOC sponsors made a large investment by simply being a sponsor, it is a more interesting assessment to compare each advertiser type by the breakdown between digital and TV marketing. In comparing TV advertisements to social posts generated (Facebook and Twitter combined), it appears that IOC sponsors under indexed in social compared to the rest of the field, which is particularly surprising given how open the content and imagery restrictions were for IOC sponsors.


Given the amount of time, effort, and monetary investment that goes into advertising during the Olympics, as well as the immense audience size, we were surprised that advertisers weren’t consistently matching their digital efforts to their TV ad time. We look forward to seeing how digital advertising evolves by the next Olympics. In the meantime, check back in with us for our next big sports report covering advertisers' digital efforts during the Super Bowl.