Digital will be marketing’s Olympic gold medal

With news that TV ad market is not likely to experience its expected highs over the Olympic period and revelations that some non-sponsors have gone as far as cancelling planned TV campaigns, digital looks likely to climb to the top of the winners table during July and August.

Lara O'Reilly

With the macro economic outlook grimmer than one of Melanie Sykes tweets to her toy boy this week (Google it, I don’t want to be responsible for the story’s full repetition), brands have decided to hold off spending on TV during the summer.

Indications from media agencies suggest the TV ad market could be down as much as 10% in July and 5% in August, according to analysts at Liberum Capital.

Their head media analyst Ian Whittaker says non-sponsors fearing lack of cut-through during Games have canned July and August TV campaigns – suggesting the costs involved with cancellation would be less than the lack of return those brands would receive from actually airing the ads.

One senior marketer at a non-sponsor brand told me that he has no plans to spend on TV during July and August, not wanting to pay the highly inflated rates at a time when spend on that platform is traditionally low.

Instead, he alluded to the notion of shifting TV spend to digital to increase effectiveness. It makes sense.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that while much of the nation will be swept up in Olympic fever, glued to their television sets to catch all the latest results, there are many people who would rather sit and watch glue dry. Or, will choose to go online instead.

Brands like Coca-Cola, P&G and BT will be looking to make the most of their sponsorship with a blitzkrieg of marketing during Games time on all the platforms that offer the biggest scale.

Those who don’t feel like being shouted at through a megaphone about “legacy” and “pride” and “being involved even though you’re just sat on the sofa eating a Big Mac” are likely to try their darnest to avoid anything Olympics-related at all costs – and that isn’t going to be easy.

Non-sponsor brands can capitalise on the spoilsport audience by offering different messaging or even emphasising that the Games can be a little overwhelming. They can act as a service, providing consumers with other forms of entertainment such as video, games or links to products to pass the time with in the offline world.

Digital is the way to find this audience and target them directly. Digital marketers can get access to reams of data to capture the Olympic avoiders and speak to them with messages they will find agreeable.

At the polar opposite end of the audience will also be those who are desperately checking their smartphones to get the latest athletics updates when they don’t have access to a television.

Locog predicts its official companion app will be download by “double digit millions” of fans.

Display, social and search marketing can also tap into this excitement, by also keeping an eye on the Olympics news and trends and tailoring campaigns to fall in line with the online buzz and rush for information (while making sure not to fall foul of the IOC’s ambush marketing rules).

London 2012 is widely touted to be the first “truly digital Games” and those brands without a ticket (or a multi-million pound sponsorship) can still capitalise on every aspect of the online Olympics – especially appealing to those people who would rather the event wasn’t taking place at all.

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