How this year's Olympic Games could break new advertiser and consumer records

We investigate sentiment around this year's Olympic Games and how it's shaping up for brands and the official media broadcaster


Viewer demographics and engagement

The very Australia-friendly time zone is an incredibly influential factor. With Tokyo only one hour behind Australia’s east coast, most of the broadcasting will be in a comfortable, if not prime time, slot. Burnette also points to strong affinity between Australians and Japanese along with genuine interest in each other’s countries.

Moston believes audiences for this year’s games will be boosted by a younger cohort keen to see new sports, as well as the Australian team attracting more viewers. 

“Surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing will create interest from a younger audience as did the introduction of snowboarding in the late 1990s. The Olympic movement is really contemporising its sports program,” he says. “For Australia, with 488 athletes, it’s the largest ever international team that’s competed offshore. There are additional athletes because of swap-outs as a result of injury of Covid circumstances, so the IOC is allowing more. And more than 50 per cent are women athletes.”

When the Games were postponed last April, both SportFive and Seven extended arrangements with clients for the year, with Seven also going to market a second time. Burnette’s team and advertising partners have certainly been working on hope but also the question remained: Is it on or not?

“That's been the question up to about now, and up to when the athletes started landing in Tokyo,” he says.

From Seven’s perspective, the success of advertising support, marketing insights for advertisers, audience numbers and the broadcast itself is remarkable. The official broadcaster is offering content on 45 channels including video-on demand platform, 7Plus. The first day of broadcast alone, ahead of the opening ceremony, saw Seven smash 7Plus’ live-streaming 2021 record by streaming 45.9 million minutes, including its usual programmed content. 

There will be more than 1 billion streaming minutes for Tokyo 2020 compared with 325 million minutes streamed for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Revenue from brand support is well over $100 million and Seven expects to see a huge influx of new viewers registering on 7Plus.

“This is the first time we’ve had the Olympics app inside our existing 7Plus platform, where we now have about seven million registered users. We expect to pick up another three to four million during the Olympics,” Burnette says.

Consumer behavioural change

Nevertheless, Covid peaking in a few states on the eve of the Olympics has wrought havoc with national community initiatives. One of these is Westpac’s live sites, so the bank's digital engagement ‘Olympics Live in Your Lounge Room’, will be a welcome plan B.

Yet Covid has boosted aspects of the Olympics for advertisers as lockdowns increased consumer affinity with screens and being connected wherever we are. Burnette cites the highest-ever recorded TV audiences on the Sunday evening before the Olympics, for combined viewers of traditional channels 7, 9, 10, ABC and Foxtel streaming. Another is ballooning use of streaming services.

“Viewing behaviour has fundamentally changed and these Olympics meet that modern behaviour. So many more people are watching more streaming services than at the Rio 2016 Olympics,” Burnette continues. “The technology we have to deliver this degree of personalisation means people can sign in and get a rich, personalised experience. That all lends itself to what we do with advertisers because it makes it very targeted and addressable.”

Devotees of a particular sport can choose to watch every minute of an Olympics event, or long-form video on-demand or shorter clips Seven is producing. Data-enabled ad experiences are designed to make advertising more personal, relevant and enjoyable - and thus more valuable for advertisers. Some brands are inserting dynamic QR codes into video as portals to viewer-customised experiences. 

Francis CoadyCredit: Havas
Francis Coady


Coady believes the biggest challenge is getting attention of audiences because of the competition for eyeballs.

“The Olympics and sport itself has to be audience-ready and culturally relevant across multiple segments. Because they’re up against Stan, Netflix and plenty of shortform content, let alone being [staged] in the middle of Covid,” he says.  

While technology gives viewers more, it’s also meant Seven has been able to offer advertisers more this year. Broadcast has for many Olympic Games delivered mass reach for brands – especially around opening ceremonies and most popular events such as the 400 and 100 metres finals. Now with registered viewers, personalised and targeted promotions, there’s a much more to the broadcasters’ offer. 

Inflight campaigns versus ‘set and forget’

“In previous years, brands come in to get brand ‘halo’ and they’ve used other things to get performance metrics,” explains Burnette. “This is the first Olympics where we can deliver huge broad mass appeal and then create a performance to that marketing proposition, because we can target through digital. 

“Some brands are doing digital-only, others doing broadcast-only; most brands are doing broadcast and digital together. This means it’ll be the first what we call ‘fluid audience’ Games, so wherever the audience is at we are able to move brand ads there. We’re reporting each day to advertisers what’s happened the night before and we can optimise their schedules against where the audience is going to be, following nuances observed on the way through or ‘inflight’, whereas historically it was left as it was.”

The launch of VOZ by Oztam and Nielsen on the eve of the Olympics delivers a fresh and more comprehensive take on viewer stats and weighs into Seven’s future offer to advertisers. VOZ measures the across two previously separate but overlapping measures but manages avoids duplication.  

“It's a significant event for the industry because VOZ will now measure across metro and regional broadcast and digital and it de-dupes the viewer numbers. It will shape a better lens on the viewer,” Burnette says. “Everyone’s trying to work out what to do with the data when we see the numbers and insights.”  

Because VOZ is so new, it will inform Seven and advertisers for later events based on what audience viewing behaviour and engagement looks like this year. 

“There’s going to be a lot of learnings from these games for us about how people consume. Do they watch the live stream on connected TV - where we expect most of the activity to come - or are they watching long-form on video on-demand, or live or what about the shorter clips that we’re doing a lot of? We can observe and report on all these different and some new behaviours it’ll inform us about creating content moving forward,” Burnette says.   

There’s also the public’s need for something more exciting and different to ordering takeaway and bingeing a series. Surveys by Seven's research partner, TEG Insights, found more than 70 per cent of Australians are interested in the Games, 61 per cent view it as a welcome distraction and 80 per cent still believe it’s an event that can connect people despite empty stadia in Tokyo.

“People need a break from the grind that is Covid and the Olympics is a welcome outlet,” said Coady. “But there will be cynicism too. It’s such a strange time - brands and marketers have got a job on our hands to bring joy with meaning.”  

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