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A Look Back at 2008 Olympics Advertising


Since The Olympic Games are the most anticipated sporting event in the world, we decided to follow up on our post-Games report by studying viewers’ behaviors and the impact advertising and sponsorships had on them.   One may question the reason for studying The Olympics months after its conclusion.  Actually it is an ideal time—especially since it takes perhaps only three months to erase the star athletes from our collective conscience, calling into question the value of Olympic sponsorship.

Just as every US presidential election is called the most important election ever, these Olympics were called the most important Olympics ever.  They were important for advertisers for the following reasons:  1) a bigger audience than ever, 2) the integration of online video, 3) the diminished efficacy of television spots due to digital video recorders (or DVRs), and 4) China—human rights violator and nascent economic superpower.We polled viewers on several topics:

  • Why do companies advertise during and/or sponsor the Olympics?
  • How did you watch The Olympics? (online, broadcast TV, TiVo, etc.)
  • How have attitudes and opinions about advertisers changed?

Here of some of our topline results:

  • 93% of respondents watched The Olympics (nationwide, it was more little more than 70% according to CNBC)
  • 60% of respondents watched the games as they were broadcast; of those using a DVR about half skipped most of the commercials
  • 71% did not watch any of the Olympics online, and of those who did, “just to try it out” was cited as the key reason

The most recalled brands during The Olympics:

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. McDonalds
  3. Visa
  4. Nike
  5. Speedo
  6. Lenovo

For more results, click here.

It has been claimed  that consumers accept advertising and “don’t attach political ramifications to it.”  Our research actually found something interesting.  To the question, “Have your opinions about any company that advertised during or sponsored The Games or athletes changed”, a shocking 100% said “No”.  In other words, the advertising did not change opinion.     To the survey question that followed, “Some companies chose not to advertise/sponsor during The Olympics due to either Chinese human rights violations or the issue of Tibet. Do you respect these companies:  More, Less, The same, or N/A (I have no opinion), the results were equally shocking because of the change.  While four out of ten people said “the same”, about 5% said less, and 31.5% said more!

Based on the findings of these two questions, it appears (taking a stand and) not advertising during something people feel strongly about (one way or another) may actually be more effective than advertising.  There are plenty of other examples other than our report on the Olympics that support this.  Food for thought.

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