Losing but Still Winning: 3 Marketing Lessons from the Olympics


I freaking love the Olympics. I will watch the USA compete in just about anything. Gymnastics and swimming are personal favorites but I’ve seen everything from dressage, water polo, pistol shooting, sprinting, shot put, fencing… I could continue but I think you’re getting it.

The shift in how we watch the Olympics has changed alongside the shift in how we consume all media. As consumers, we’re watching substantially less broadcast television. We’re streaming more – more than 1.3 billion minutes of Olympic coverage so far.

But I’m a marketer who writes for a marketing blog, so I can’t help myself from thinking of the lessons we can learn from NBC’s adapting coverage and how consumers are viewing it. 

Adapt or Fail

NBC acknowledged the desire consumers had to both time-shift their viewing and watch some events as they happen. The traditional evening broadcasts remain, heavily edited with appropriately fluffy pieces about the athletes but if you want just the competition – you’ve got it. NBC ran every single event as a live stream through their website and app. It was not only an opportunity to give consumers what they want, it was a chance to offer new and different platforms for their advertisers. 

Don’t Forget What Worked

Too often as marketers, we can be distracted by the latest shiny technique, medium or measurement tool. But we must remember what techniques are still working, and working well. A modern marketer may be completely focused on online marketing, social strategy, etc. But just as NBC offered a combination of traditional and modern coverage (and thus traditional and modern advertising opportunities), so too must we as marketers remember that things like direct mail might not be sexy but they can be really effective.

Measurements Vary, Widely

Streaming is up but ratings are down, especially compared to the enthusiastic numbers watching the London Olympics in 2012. But does that mean that this year was a failure for NBC? Absolutely not.

As marketers, we need to always remember to look at measurements within context. Growth is important, but so is ROI. Adjustments in expectations need to be made as the market changes – goodness knows people aren’t watching as much TV as they used to. It wouldn’t do NBC any good to compare these numbers to the pre-cable explosion any more than it would for us as marketers not to contextualize our own results.

With the USA firmly in the lead of the medal count, my time watching the Olympics is almost up. At least until PyeongChang in 2018.


Category: Marketing ROI, Marketing

Amanda Wojtalik

Amanda Wojtalik

A seasoned marketing professional, Amanda Wojtalik brings experience in omnichannel marketing and communications to craft and curate content for Pluris Marketing.

About this blog

At Pluris, we believe that we all can do a better, more efficient job at marketing to our most important customers. On this blog, we'll discuss how strategy, database management, offer optimization and analytics can help us all be better marketers. Sometimes, we may just talk about sports.

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