Olympic Audiences Sprint Towards Digital Platforms – How Do You Catch Them?

We’ve come to an end of a summer filled with two major international sporting events –  the Euros and the Rio Olympic Games. Gold coins have been bitten, flags have been waved, and lots and lots of ad calls have been made.

Here at Unruly, we were curious how advertising volumes spiked and dipped for publishers around these two sporting events.

Our SSP UnrulyX is integrated with hundreds of premium publisher platforms, so we analysed three site lists to identify when ad calls occurred during the weeks before and after these zeitgeist moments. The site lists were: all sporting sites, football-specific sites, and sporting sites excluding those with a focus on football.

Here’s what we found:  

1. TV viewing and online reading are not consistent

Whether NBC’s failure to capitalise on the buzz of the Olympics led to a decline in ratings, or if people just weren’t interested in the Olympics this year is not yet clear. What is clear is that the largest TV moments don’t correlate to online activity.

The two biggest spikes in ad calls came in response to Simone Biles landing gymnastics gold for the women’s vault and Usain Bolt running away with his gold in the 100m Final. But it wasn’t the day of these events where we saw the biggest spike in ad calls. Instead, it was the day after these record-breaking events that publishers saw surges in ad calls.

When planning content, think about your readers’ natural behaviour when watching and researching these global sporting events. If a big event falls on a Sunday – as these events did – viewers are likely to wait until they’re back in the office to read up on the details, rather than during their Sunday evenings while they watch with friends and family and discuss in real time. Publishers could extend the life of their content by producing follow-up pieces or amplifying across social media on the second day.

2. Appeal globally by talking locally

One potential pitfall of international sporting events is the natural drop-off when a fan’s team falls out of the running. When we looked at ad calls towards the end of both the Euros and the Olympics, we saw a big dip in activity, even though this is when all the action is!

So keep reader activity up by tying in topics that can appeal to anyone watching the Games, not just those who are tuning in to watch their favourite local sports stars.

3. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your niche

Not surprisingly, football-related sites saw a large uptick in ad calls during the Euros. However, if you look closer at the data you’ll see that ad calls dropped dramatically after the Euros and before the Olympics, with only a slight increase during the Rio Games itself.

In order to capitalise on the buzz of other major sporting events, consider having content on different topics that will appeal to your audience. Consider covering other international sporting zeitgeist events when your website’s niche is inherently slow. Or even better, can you make a connection between Cristiano Ronaldo and Usain Bolt? Trying to appeal to fans of both sports could increase interest to your site when organic activity would be otherwise low.

4. Create the buzz earlier

Our data shows that ad calls for the Olympics only began increasing once the Games had started. During the two weeks before the opening ceremony, each publisher segment saw a drop in ad calls. 

People wait four years to watch the Olympics, so help them get excited! There was plenty of drama outside the arena this year (green pools anyone?) and sports audiences always love to hear compelling stories about Olympians. Whether it’s a classic underdog story, a tale of personal triumph and overcoming obstacles, or simply an analysis of their intense training regimes – people want to feel involved in the Games.

Publishers can capitalise on this pre-game buzz by launching engaging content before, during and after the ceremonies.

5. Make sure you can respond when surges in ad calls pop up

There is a natural surge in ad calls during zeitgeist events and, as a publisher, you need to be ready to capitalise on that. In addition to creating great content at times when people are most likely to read about these topics, make sure your SSP partners are flexible enough to meet those needs.

Be sure you’re able to track where the largest spikes in advertising demand are coming from, so you’re able to optimise for future zeitgeist events.