RIOlizations: Social marketing learnings from the 2016 Summer Games

With the Olympics over, the internet is “lit” with nostalgia: the good, the bad, and the Lochte. Back in April, Rio was projected to be the most social Olympics ever, with 18% of Millennials saying they would discuss the Games on Snapchat. The results are in, and nearly 50 million people watched Olympics coverage on that platform alone. Beyond the substantial social conversation, Rio offered many takeaways applicable to any social marketing campaign. Read on for strategic do’s and don’ts gleaned from the Summer Games.



Explore new avenues for reaching new audiences. In an effort to connect with a younger audience, NBC struck a deal with Snapchat – the reigning social network among teens today – making the app NBC’s only U.S. partner allowed to distribute official Olympics content. The partnership included a popup Snapchat Discover channel and Snapchat-curated live stories covering many aspects of the various Olympic events.

Foster connections between your subject and your audience. It’s no secret that humans love human interest stories. The storytelling aspect of the Olympics will always play a major role in sought-after coverage – it humanizes these superhuman athletes. A peek at their family lives and journeys leading up to the Games presents them as more relatable, and more lovable – upping their following.

Be a culture maven and encourage celebration. With every Olympics comes a spotlight on the host country’s culture, landscape, and people. Just as Olympic hosts countries do, brands should be showcasing and celebrating what sets them apart on a cultural level. It paints a picture of core identity – and who doesn’t love a little show and tell?

Stay savvyread up on relevant guidelines and restrictions. In the social world, this most recently means the likes of Rule 40 and updated FTC disclosure guidelines. Violators of such regulations could face legal action.



Assume an audience’s habits will remain steadfast. Evolution – it happens. Toward the end of the games, prime-time broadcast viewership was down about 17 percent compared to the London games four years prior. In particular, this year’s 18-to-49-year-old audience shrank by 25 percent in comparison.

Because ratings fell short, [NBC] had to give buyers free commercial time to make good on guarantees that a certain number of viewers would switch on television sets. The promise was for ratings equaling an average of about 21 million U.S. households and the reality, as of late last week, was roughly 18.2 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. –Bloomberg

The reality is that today’s media world offers consumers with more entertainment options, which in turn has altered their behaviors. To put the ever-evolving entertainment landscape into perspective: During the 2012 Olympics, Snapchat was only a year old and Netflix had roughly half as many U.S. subscribers as it does today.

Pick a winner just because they’re a winner – when sponsoring an individual, make sure their values and attitude align with your brand values. Some people look great on paper, but paper doesn’t make a personality. Take it from Speedo USA, Ralph Lauren, etc.

Side note: Can someone tell me why there aren’t Lochte Ness Monster memes circulating the internet yet?


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