Diana Gonimah
Diana Gonimah 2 March 2018

Video and Patriotism Blow Brand Engagements Out of the Water at the PyeongChang Olympics

Chloe Kim may have made history, but let’s not forget who effectively told athletes’ stories during the Winter Olympics: digital marketers. By tapping video and capitalizing on excitement on social channels for the Winter Games, SocialCode advertisers saw a boost in key metrics including increases in engagement, click-through-rates, and positive brand sentiment across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

The 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea were historical in more ways than one. While the Super Bowl highlighted our differences and rivalries as Americans, the Winter Olympics quickly brought people closer, while highlighting the unique stories that came together to make Team USA. 

Video As A Vehicle For Patriotism

The Winter Games are about hard work culminating in an event that combines patriotism with athletic ability. Brands on social platforms became the vehicles through which we got to know the beautiful origin stories of various members of Team USA. SocialCode’s spending saw a heavy emphasis on video at this year’s Olympics, with advertisers bidding for video views for the entire duration of the campaign and distributing video content across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Four years ago, at the Sochi Olympics, SocialCode’s advertisers dedicated 100% of their budgets to Facebook and Twitter, with static tweets and posts making up the majority of content. This year, SocialCode advertisers allocated 92% of their Olympics advertising dollars on paid social to video ad units, with a heavy investment in Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

While some companies were focused on increasing affinity and love for their brand at the Olympics, others used a combination of video, GIFs and carousel posts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to drive registrations and other direct-response initiatives. Whether you saw a pre-roll video on YouTube or a sponsored Snapchat Story while perusing Snapchat Discover, this year’s Olympics found its way to almost everyone, including the cord-cutters in our midst. Even if you didn’t tune in, you had an idea who the big names representing the US were. This makes the Olympics a good example of how advertisements can make us feel more connected to the world. While brands were not necessarily telling product-centric stories at the Olympics, they were building positive associations and connections with audiences by attaching their names to these extraordinary people.

Ads, Sweat, and Tears

One brand heavily tapped video to join the Olympic conversation, dividing its campaign into multiple phases. The brand kicked off its Olympics teaser content as early as November, launching 360-video and GIFs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to introduce some of the athletes on the US Team and familiarize the audience with their names.

In January, the brand launched a series of interview clips with the athletes, who shared their origin stories and told us about the journey they went on to train for the Winter Games. Then when the Olympics officially started, the brand built a rapport with the audience by compiling user-generated content (UGC) and sharing the best content from fans across the brand’s social media. With every win and loss, the team was ready to promote content across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that spoke to each outcome, keeping up the momentum throughout the games.

Like every event at the Olympics, success on social was measurable. Upon conducting a social listening analysis of its brands mentions on Twitter, the advertiser found that the top emotion associated with its brand was “joy,” with 96% positive or neutral brand sentiment comprising the majority of interactions with the brand’s Promoted Tweets, underscoring the value of video. While the majority of the video content in this campaign was 15 seconds long, the brand also deployed a number of two-minute videos to dive deep into athlete’s life stories. The positive sentiment resulting from this campaign indicates that in the right context, long video is not always bad. It can be a powerful tool when your narrative is compelling enough.

The Hunger (for) Games

Our analysis indicates that there’s an appetite for sponsored content during the Olympics. While February is filled to the brim with colorful and diverse ads thanks to the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, we found that ads on Facebook pertaining to the Olympics saw 1.2x higher engagement than non-Olympics content.

Love for the Red, White, and Blue Drives Engagements

When we specifically looked at engagement rate on Olympics-themed ads run by our clients during the Winter Olympics, we found that engagement with Facebook ads was at its highest on the day that the Opening Ceremony aired in the U.S., with the second highest engagements on the 15th of February. It’s no coincidence that these days mark key, emotional moments for Americans.

Olympics content launched on the 15th scored a 2.5x higher engagement rate than non-Olympics content on Facebook, potentially due to excitement for American alpine ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin’s gold medal win in the women's giant slalom, in addition to leftover excitement from the day before, when American snowboarder Shaun White logged his iconic halfpipe victory.

On Twitter, engagement rates did not peak on Opening Ceremony; excluding the three days before the Super Bowl, engagement rates on Twitter were above the February average on February 14th, the day of Shaun White’s win, and between the 18th and the 21st. This trend is opposite to what we see on Facebook, where engagement with Olympics content is higher toward the beginning of the Winter Games, and declining as we approaching the Closing Ceremony. This finding supports the idea that Twitter remains a premium hub for sports conversations, even well past peak days and moments.

America’s Sweethearts

When we conducted a keyword analysis on Facebook ads, we found that the athletes most referenced in Olympics ads this February were Chloe Kim, Jamie Anderson, Hilary Knight, Mikaela Pauline Shiffrin, and Gus Kenworthy, while the sports capturing advertisers’ budgets were snowboarding, curling, speed skating, alpine skiing, and figure skating.

Compared to Olympics ads launched a week before the Opening Ceremony, ads launched the day of Chloe Kim’s historic women’s halfpipe win saw a 385% higher click-through-rate. While this data is correlative, it certainly supports the impact individual athletes have on advertising. The outcome of each event has a strong connection to how people engage with your brand’s content. When you’re deciding to advertise around the Olympics, you’re investing in real people; and real people respond well to their stories.


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