Olympic Sponsors Might Not Be Reaching Target Demographics

Jessie Berry


With just a few days left of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, global audiences have witnessed historical feats several times over.

We saw Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time with an astonishing 28 medals, with 23 of them being gold. We also saw Simone Biles earn her right as the most successful gymnast of all time with a combined total of 19 Olympic and World Championship medals, including four gold medals at the Rio Games. With that, she set a new American record for the most gold medals in women’s gymnastics during a single Olympics.

And the fastest man ever timed, Usain Bolt, has already won the gold in the men’s 100m sprint, becoming the first track athlete to ever win three gold medals for one event. He heads to the 200m finals tonight to attempt a third gold in that event, as well.

But, despite so many amazing things happening during this year’s Games, audience viewership and ratings for NBC aren’t performing as expected. Through the first eight nights, the network was averaging 28.1 million viewers a night, which is down 15% from the London Games, although viewership has been on the uptick since. And with advertisers spending more than $1.2 billion for commercials for Rio, they might not exactly be reaching the audiences they anticipated based on these numbers.

There is a key demographic that advertisers seem to be missing out on, and that’s viewers ages 18-24, as seen in the screenshot below from iQ media’s demographic data. This view is for the demographics associated with 5 of the top Olympic sponsors: McDonald’s, GE, Visa, P&G, and Coca-Cola. The largest age group by far falls into the 35-49 category, with more women (in the orange bar) than men (blue bar) engaged overall across broadcast, digital and social media.



One explanation: the millennial demographic tends to be more accustomed to alternate modes of viewing coverage than their older counterparts. For example, viewing streaming coverage online or on their mobile devices might be the route this younger demographic takes when wanting to view Olympic coverage, rather than tuning into the traditional TV broadcast.

If anything, it’s safe to say that modes of consuming content are shifting rapidly, and we are interested to see what changes NBC makes to its strategy for the next Games, which will be the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

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