Brands Warm up to Winter Olympics; Digital is Gold

Winter Olympics
NBC Sports

NEW YORK – The Winter Olympics may attract fewer eyeballs than the summer games, but it appears brands are still warming up to the event in South Korea. 

Analysts say one of the key reasons is that viewers are being given more access than ever before. For example, in the U.S., NBC airing more than 625 hours of Olympic programming and 1,800 hours of live-streamed content.

To hit those numbers, NBC, which has the exclusive U.S. rights to the games, has embarked on an ambitious digital coverage effort teaming up with social media to reach more viewers.

NBC is allowing Snapchat to offer a live stream of segments from the games and it’s sending user notifications when key events are about to kick off. Plus, there will be a curated “Our Stories” feed from athletes in the Olympic Village.

NBC’s linear ratings dropped during the 2016 Rio Olympics, so it’s hoping its revamped digital strategy will “cast that very wide net and reassemble that massive Olympic audience,” says NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel. Zenkel says the deal with Snapchat is about creating “deeper” partnerships applying lessons learned from the 2016 games.

NBC is also partnering with YouTube, which is offering “select” Olympics highlights for viewers. Plus, Uber users are being treated to what NBC calls “a custom in-ride video experience” in the app, which is featuring highlights and interviews with athletes. And riders of the Peloton indoor exercise bike are taking cycling classes streamed live from South Korea, with NBC talent and Olympic athletes participating. 

Even pedestrians in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia are seeing interactive screens with highlights on street corners, delivered by the smart cities and technology company Intersection.

Jennifer Storms, chief marketing officer for NBC Sports Group, says NBC spent much of 2017 analyzing Olympic consumer insights to help the broadcaster be more “relevant and authentic” to consumers

“So whether you’re watching promotion on TV, in mobile, in a taxi, in a mall, on a plane, or you’re opening an email from us, we speak directly to you with platform-specific content that resonates on an individual level,” Storms says. 

NBC reports it’s measuring all that consumption via total audience delivery metrics, which tracks all live viewership across channels and devices. It used those metrics during the 2016 Summer Olympics, and on average, NBC says it counted 1.7 million viewers who were not watching live on traditional platforms for those games.