Olympics: All Ads and No Games?

Olympics All Ads and No Games

Olympics: All Ads and No Games?

By Abigail Hickey

As anyone who’s ever seen the Superbowl, Kentucky Derby or even the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show knows that the advertisements accompanying these events have become almost as talked about at the events themselves. Due to the high viewership of the events, networks airing them want to fit in as many advertisements as possible. The Olympics are no different. Every year the Olympics air on television with advertisements scattered throughout, but with the rise of social media and the changing landscape of TV watching habits over the last four years, the advertisements associated with Rio 2016 are different than they ever have been.

There are a few areas to look at in regards to Olympic advertisements, including (but not limited to), general social media, Snapchat, and NBC’s television broadcast.

General Social Media

The general social media dos and don’ts for brands in relation to the Olympics were recently released and have been well covered in the news. But in summary, unless your brand is an official Olympic sponsor, there are many words and phrases that cannot be used on social media because they are considered to be the Olympics’ intellectual property.  A few of these words include:

  • Olympics
  • Team USA
  • Road to Rio
  • Olympian
  • Rio 2016
  • Let the Games begin


Snapchat advertising is a relatively new phenomenon, which the Olympics also needed to regulate. The Olympics are advertised in several ways: the Live Story, the Discover channel, and geofilters. The advertisement within the Live Story and Discover channel is extremely limited. Here, you will only see ads from the seven official partners (Sony Pictures, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hershey’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Finish Line, and Ford.) Other brands will find ways to be active on Snapchat during the Olympics, but won’t be as prominent as the others.


The primary place to watch the Olympics this summer is on NBC, who will be offering both livestream and television coverage. It pretty much goes without saying that viewers will not be able to avoid advertisements during these events, but it isn’t clear yet how frequently NBC will cut away from the games to show ads. So far, NBC is already facing backlash in regards to the Opening Ceremony. The broadcast, which NBC aired on a one-hour delay, and filled with commercial breaks, has lead to criticism and jokes on the Internet, saying that the Ceremony had too many commercials. But the most intriguing part of the situation is NBC’s response. NBC has stated that the total commercial time during the Opening Ceremony is comparable to that of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, and they have cited changing TV watching habits and binge watching as the reason viewers found the ads to be so disruptive.

So, is NBC airing too many ads? Are brands too limited in what they can do on social media? We’ll have to continue watching the Olympics and see. Clearly, Olympic athletes aren’t the only ones facing a challenging two weeks; brands are, too.

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