The second-screen Olympics

The 27th modern Olympic and Paralympic games have drawn to a close, with the UK completing its best overseas Olympics ever, with a medal haul of 27 golds, 23 silvers and 17 bronze, and it’s best ever Paralympics, with 64 gold medals.

There’s been success at the Games from a digital standpoint too. BBC Sport’s Head of Digital and Radio (Ben Gallop) has said that BBC Sport saw an unprecedented demand for their digital services, with 102 million browsers around the world accessing BBC online coverages of the games. Interestingly, 68 million of those were from the UK - more than the UK’s actual population. This can only be the case due to the influx of second screens: “Most of us now have more than one: the screen on your desk at work, the one in your living room, the tablet you share with your kids.”

At London 2012, 42% of the digital audience followed the action on handheld devices; four years later in had hit 75%. Gallop has concluded that “Rio showed us that mobile is now the primary platform for sports fans”; the BBC also engaged with more than 30 million fans across social media.

Digital advertising during the Games

NBC Sports, meanwhile, have revealed how they partnered with Adobe on dynamic ad insertion, in which ads are personalised for each viewer during live or on-demand programming, forming “the first live linear ad. replacement for every screen.” Adobe have noted that over half of those streaming Olympic coverage on NBC Sports were under the age of 35, who are “watching TV differently”.

A non-digital Paralympics?

Although the Paralympic games are set to reach a global audience of four billion for the first time, initial indications were that the digital innovations pervading the Olympic games had not been extended to the Paralympics.

The extensive and very successful Olympic results via search feature from Google heralded a new era for the platform, utilising visuals and becoming the first point of call for news, but was disappointingly not continued for the Paralympic games, with Paralympic fans having to make do with just a Google Doodle from the organisation.

The Paralympic organisation themselves made some headway, with tweets around the world keeping the Paralympic flame burning in ‘the first ever digital Torch Relay’.

However, the perceived failure of Paralympic sponsors to create a conversation around the Games has also been questioned. There are notable exceptions - Nissan saw record social engagement with its campaigns during the Paralympics, garnering a total reach of 26 million people. Samsung’s School of Rio ads and athlete blogger campaign (athletes told their stories through their Samsung devices and took audiences on a journey with them) were also a positive example. However, ten of the biggest Paralympic sponsors only generated a combined 5,116 global mentions during the Paralympic games, according to WE’s Brand Agility Index. The head of digital and insight at WE concluded that although brands had a positive start, “ the weeks went by, efforts became sporadic, diluted and tired.” It was suggested that the campaigns used weren’t Paralympics-relevant, and were just extensions of their already used Olympics campaigns.

The digital future of the Olympics

It’s been widely reported that poor television ratings in the US for the 2016 Olympic Games was balance by NBC’s huge digital streaming audiences. The BBC’s 68 million digital views were matched by 100 million unique users streaming NBC coverage on their computers and devices. The vice president of DigitasLBi has declared that: “We learned a lot about consumption habits and attracted new audiences...we’ll use all of your data to develop our plans for Pyeongchang in 2018 and Tokyo in 2020.”

There could be much more digital innovation to look forward to in Tokyo 2020. A focus on a fully immersive and personal online experience - ‘more than the live stream’ - customisable Olympic coverage, a more social live experience and gamification have all been suggested to help pave the way to a fully digital Olympics.

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