Advertisers Go for the Gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics

Make sure you’re stretched and hydrated, because the biggest athletic competition in the world is just a week away. We’re talking about the Summer Olympics! This year, 206 countries will join together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to compete in gymnastics, swimming, track and field, beach volleyball, and many more AWESOME games that promise to capture the world’s attention from August 5 to August 21.

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But it’s not just the competition at the events that will be fierce: advertisers are also seeking gold. From Albania to Vietnam, 88 networks across the globe will broadcast the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to millions of people. That’s a pretty big target market…

With the growing cost of ads, the rise of digital, and the changing sponsorship rules, brands have quite a bit to take into consideration on their road to Rio.

There’s more money at stake.


And NBCUniversal knows it. The network has the exclusive media rights to all Olympic Games content on all platforms in the United States through 2032. This year, they’ve spent $1.28 billion dollars to secure the rights to Rio 2016, and are well on their way to recouping a week before the games have even begun, with $1 billion already made in national advertising sales (including broadcast, cable, and digital).

In order for brands to get their own piece of the action, they will need to put down over $1 million dollars for a 30-second spot. Sure, this doesn’t quite pack the same punch as a $5 million-dollar Super Bowl commercial, but it’s a far cry from the 1988 Games’ $155,000 cost.

Digital is in it to win it.


People are watching television and videos on their phones more than ever before and digital spending is on track to surpass TV spending as early as next year. To tap into this audience, the NBC Sports App will be live streaming 4,500 hours of Olympic content. However, if you want to even be eligible to buy digital on NBCU, you’ve got to spend more than $10 million.

All brands are invited to compete . . . sort of.


The biggest shake up in Olympic advertising is the adjustment to Rule 40 from the International Olympic Committee that allows brands that are not Olympic sponsors to advertise the events. But like any game, there are rules:

  1. Brands can’t use any Olympic intellectual property (or “IP”). This means unless you’re one of the official sponsors (like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s), you can’t say things like “Olympic,” “Rio,” or “Gold.”
  2. Athletes and non-sponsor brands had to submit an application including full advertising and social media campaigns by January 27 to the United States Olympic Committee, and your ads had to start running by March 27. This is tough, considering that athletes haven’t even qualified at this point and no one is really thinking about the Olympics yet…

But it can be done! See how Under Armor made it work:

It’s the content that counts.

So with big-time dollars at stake, more advertising platforms than ever, and non-sponsor brands joining the conversation, your content has to stand out.

>>You have to be creative:

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Ads of the World: Bank of China, 2012 London Games, Beijing


Ads of the World: Bradesco Ad, Brazil

>>You have to tap into the human element:

Never Lose the Love, Gatorade


Ads of the World: Laundry Print Ad from Belgium

Olympic Swimmers When They Were Just Beginners, USA Swimming

>>You have to remind us why we love the Olympics – The Games bring a sense of global unity:

McDonald’s Rio 2016 Olympics: Friends Win!

Visa | The Carpool to Rio – featuring Team Visa Olympians


The 2016 Summer Olympics will air through NBCUniversal August 5 – 21. Learn more about who, what, and how to watch.

Cover Images: Visa, McDonalds, Burger King, John Lewis, Coca-Cola