This year, fans will be watching the Olympics on multiple screens, making them likely the most watched and talked-about Games in history. So how can brands stand out in this very crowded and competitive market? Nigel Gilbert, VP strategic development EMEA, AppNexus shares his top five tips for gold-medal digital marketing at the Games. 

1. Go programmable

In years past, ad buys for the Olympics have largely been manual and fixed, preventing marketers from converting awe-inspiring moments into real-time opportunities. Fortunately, in today’s 24-hour, globalised, internet economy, brands can seize ‘moment’ marketing opportunities by pre-emptively putting programmable systems in place to do so. 

Programmable technology leverages data and machine learning to enhance marketer performance, publisher monetisation, and deliver a highly customised user experience for each individual consumer.

Employing programmable marketing requires strategic thinking around every possible branding opportunity surrounding a given sporting event – and setting up a complex variety of triggers that initiate pre-planned advertising scenarios as anticipated events come to pass.

By turning plans into decision trees, custom algorithms can be programmed to drive buying strategies. Brands can, in real-time, adjust everything from the product or service they advertise to the messaging and context with which they promote it, serving creative that is relevant, personalised and device-appropriate. In turn, a brand’s message is delivered to the target audience at scale and in real-time.

2. Speak the language

This year’s Games will see athletes from more than 200 countries, speaking more than 30 languages, descend upon Rio. The most popular and spoken language of the 2016 Olympic viewing audience is Mandarin, with 1.09 billion native and second language speakers. The top ten also includes English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French, Portuguese, Urdu, Japanese and German.

While it may be a daunting task to overcome these various language barriers, brands must target strategically and deliver coherent messaging.

To improve targeting while remaining realistic about budgets and reach, marketers should consider all of the variables and data points available that can deliver the greatest exposure for their brand. In order to achieve maximum impact, they need to target locally but speak globally.

3. Seize ‘moment’ marketing opportunities

More than 10,000 athletes will compete in Rio, from local heroes to sporting legends. Records will be broken, and surely, several moments will go down in history.

To maximise brand exposure, it is important that marketers think ahead to the moments that will provide the greatest pull for their audience. Perhaps that’s Brazilian football legend Pele lighting the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony; Michael Phelps returning to the pool; Usain Bolt’s last Olympic run or Neymar trying to take the Brazilian soccer football team to Olympic gold on home soil.

It is going to be a crowded space, with many brands clamouring for attention. By understanding when their audience is most likely to tune in, marketers can ensure they reach the right eyes at the right time and in the right way.

To do so, marketers need to combine their creativity with computer-driven algorithms. Human beings are uniquely capable of understanding how different types of people will respond to certain events and messages. On the other hand, today’s computers are built to optimise complex, granular data sets through sophisticated machine learning. Marketers need to use their data, leverage their intuition, and plug that into machines for impactful and personalised moment marketing.

4. Make the most of mobile

With multiple events taking place at all hours of the day and night, audiences around the world cannot simply put their existing daily routines on hold to watch. In previous years, this may have been a drawback for fans and brands. However, the ubiquity of mobile devices now enables fans to keep up with the Games while going about their daily lives.

Media channels have made big preparations for this new channel. Every sporting event will be live-streamed, and a great many people are expected to be watching during the workday on their desktops. 33.9 million social media followers are predicted to use multiple devices to watch the Games, generating over two billion impressions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This changing consumer behaviour represents a significant opportunity for agile brands. Since around 80% of social media users access platforms through mobile devices, the Olympic Games represent an unprecedented opportunity to engage this audience while they’re dual-screening. The trick is gaining the needed insight to select the right mix of channels to achieve the highest rate of exposure and convert those impressions into sales.

5. Capture millennial mindshare

Of course, the audience most likely to be dual-screening are Millennials, and the best way to engage them is with relevant, bite-sized content. Unbiased, quick, and most importantly, personal, this type of content can help marketers strike a resounding chord with a millennial audience.

This specific segmented audience has defined consumption behaviours, being just as likely to engage with and share human-interest stories and meme-worthy moments as any moment from the competition itself. Millennials are also twice as likely to engage inthe cultural aspects of the games than their older counterparts.

However, desire for personalised content presents further challenges for brands striving to stay relevant during the Olympics. Applying a data-driven strategy through programmable marketing will enable brands to capitalise on ‘moment’ marketing opportunities and break through to this key demographic at the right time to maximise brand awareness and engagement.