Leaving the Olympics ‘not an option’ for many advertisers

The Olympics has long been an almost perfect platform for companies to promote themselves, with plenty of opportunities for brands to promote ads amid pageantry and good stories about athletes overcoming adversity – All for less than the price of a Super Bowl commercial.

But now, as nearly 11,000 contestants from more than 200 countries call in Tokyo as the coronavirus pandemic rages, Olympic advertisers are feeling worried about the more than $1 billion spent running ads on NBC and its Peacock streaming platform .

call to cancel more than $15.4 billion The extravaganza has intensified as more athletes test positive for Covid-19. event is also deeply unpopular Japanese citizens and many more. with public health specialist, who fear a superspreader event. no more audience in the stands.

The Olympics are already damaged goods,” said Jules Boykoff, a former Olympic football player and specialist in sports politics at the University of the Pacific. “If this situation in Japan moves sharply south, we may see some changes in the way deals are cut and the willingness of multinationals to get involved.”

Panasonic, a top sponsor, will not send its chief executive to the opening ceremony, which is scheduled for Friday. Not even Toyota, one of Japan’s most influential companies, did the delivery. Blow on Monday for the Games when it said it had dropped its plan to run Olympic-themed television commercials in Japan.

In the United States, marketing plans are mostly moving forward.

For NBCUniversal, who has paid billions of dollars For the exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics in the United States until 2032, the event is a significant source of revenue. There are over 140 sponsors for NBC’s coverage on television. Year old streaming platform Peacock And online, an increase of more than 100 signed up for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“For some of our blue-chip advertisers, not being with an audience of this size and scale is not an option,” said Jeremy Carey, managing director of sports marketing agency Optimum Sports.

In Michelob Ultra In the commercial, sprinting star Usain Bolt points to joggers at a bar. Procter & GambleThe campaign sheds light on athletes and their parents doing good. Basketball star Sue Bird promotes fitness equipment maker Tonal in one place Debuting on Friday.

Chipotle’s chief marketing officer Chris Brandt said the situation was “not ideal,” but the company still planned to run a campaign Featuring profiles of Olympic athletes.

“We think people will continue to tune in without fans, as they did for all kinds of other sports,” Brandt said. “It’s going to be a mitigating factor in terms of excitement, but we also hope that the Olympics will become a unified one at a time when the country can be so divided every day.”

NBCUniversal said it had generated more than $1.2 billion in US advertising revenue for the 2016 games in Rio and sold all of its advertising slots for Friday’s opening ceremony, adding that it would still play the rest of the game during the was offering the place. Buyers estimate that the 30-second prime-time ad is worth more than $1 million.

According to Kantar, television has attracted the bulk of ad spend, but the amount brought in by digital and streaming ads is increasing. Many forecasts predict that TV ratings for the Olympics will lag behind the Games in Rio and London, while streaming audiences move fast.

NBCUniversal said this year during so-called upfront negotiation sessions, when ad buyers reserved spots with media companies, Peacock received $500 million in commitments for the coming year.

“You won’t find a single legacy media company out there that isn’t rolling out their streaming capabilities for their biggest events,” said Mr. Carey, Optimum Sports executive. “That’s the future where this business is going.”

Team USA sponsor United Airlines canceled its original advertising campaign, which promoted flights from the United States to Tokyo. Its new effort, featuring gymnast Simon Biles and surfer Kolohe Andino, encourages a wider return to air travel.

“It didn’t make sense to focus on one specific destination that Americans might not be able to travel to,” said Maggie Schmerin, the airline’s managing director of advertising and social media.

United’s campaign will appear at airports, social media and streaming platforms, including Peacock, but not on TV. Ms Schmerin said the airline wants to “match customers to where they are, based on their viewing habits.”

Advertising agency officials said the companies were regularly checking for updates on the COVID outbreak in Japan and may adjust their marketing messages accordingly.

“Everyone is a little cautious,” said David Droga, founder of the Droga5 ad agency, which worked on an Olympic campaign for Facebook. Skateboarders Showcase. “People are pretty fragile right now. Advertisers don’t want to be too pious or too clever, but they’re trying to find that right tone.”

Several companies advertising during the Games are running campaigns that they had to redesign after the Olympics was postponed last year.

“We planned it twice,” said Mr Carey of Optimum Sports. “Think about how much the world has changed in that one year, and think about how much each of our brands has changed what they want to say or do or sponsor. So we broke it down and we go back again. started with.”

The company’s global chief marketing officer Lynn Bigger said Visa, a sponsor, would not organize promotional meetings and customer meetings in Tokyo and would not send any senior executives. The company’s advertising begins with a soccer game during the broadcast of the opening ceremony, which is followed by a show that Visa is being used in transactions around the world.

NBCUniversal’s sports calendar also includes the Super Bowl in February, for which 85 percent of ad slots are already sold out or in discussion, the company said. Also on the lineup: the fifa world cup in Qatar at the end of 2022 and Beijing Winter Olympics In February, the duo hit out at the advertising industry due to China and Qatar’s poor record on human rights.

First, though, advertising executives want the Tokyo Games to go ahead without incident.

“We’ve been dealing with these COVID updates every day since last March,” said Kevin Collins, an executive at ad-buying and media intelligence firm Magna. “I’m waiting for them to start.”

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