How NBCU is pursuing ad dollars around this year’s Olympics

first place olympics

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NBCUniversal is gunning to be the top seller of online audiences during this year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

While the broadcaster knows the Olympics draw massive viewership, this is the first time it’s aggressively pushing it beyond traditional TV. 

It’s all part of NBCUniversal’s broader strategy to capture a larger slice of the expanding digital ad market, rather than competing in the shrinking traditional media categories. And there’s no better stress test for this plan than a major sporting event like the Olympic Games.

In the U.S., NBCUniversal controls the sole right to sell official sponsorships and media. “They [NBCU] have struck distribution deals with the partners [social and streaming platforms], but those partners cannot sell into the [official] content themselves,” said one U.S. ad exec who wanted to remain anonymous.

So far, the plan seems to be working.

NBCUniversal’s digital ad revenue for the 2024 Olympic games has surpassed any previous record. The broadcaster had already sold $1.2 billion in advertising ahead of this year’s games in April, Dan Lovinger (president, ad sales and partnerships), told Variety at the time, and the company is believed to have sold around a total of $1.25 billion in national advertising around the 2021 games. This success is largely due to the broadcaster’s efforts to push more ad inventory online, selling across major platforms, and for the first time, opening some of its coverage to programmatic advertisers.

“I think that has to do with not only how we’re consuming content, but who is watching these sports games and how we’re engaging on social media overall,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst, social mediate at eMarketer. “We’re watching more video. We know that people are interested in engaging with sports influencers and creators and a lot of those are active across different platforms.”

Let’s take a closer look at how the broadcaster is doing this:

According to the pitch deck the broadcaster is taking to agencies, which Digiday has seen, it’s giving advertisers two options: place ads around their social coverage (think pre-roll) or sponsor the content directly. These opportunities span from the coverage of the trials (June 15 to June 30), through the Olympics (July 26 to August 11), to the Paralympics (August 28 to September 8).

Here’s more detail on each one: 

Media only opportunities

Media only opportunities include video highlights of the Olympic games whereby brands can run media adjacent to social content from NBC Olympics handles. The platforms offering this are:

The entertainment platform is planning to show highlights from the games as well as behind-the-scenes footage. Advertisers can then take advantage of TikTok’s Pulse Premiere experience — which ensures that they can run their ads next to the top 4% of content — across the following handles: @NBCOlympics, @Peacock, @NBCSports, @TelemundoDeportes, @NBCGolf and @OnHerTurf.

Advertisers using the platform experience a 10% increase in brand recall and a 22% increase in purchase intent, according to the deck.

X (formerly Twitter)
Long known as the place to be for real-time chatter during sporting events, the Olympics is no different this time round for X. Advertisers can get in on the action by posting pre-roll ads next to content on these handles: @NBCOlympics and @TelemundoSports to their target audiences.

The deck recommends that pre-roll ads should be six-seconds, but they can be skippable after five seconds if the ad is longer than six seconds in total. And these ads are available through X’s self-service auction.

The traditionally long-form video content platform, YouTube will be posting daily recaps, highlights and viral moments from the Paris games. As such, the platform is offering advertisers the opportunity to post pre-roll ads which are 15-seconds long, before organic posts that are up to five minutes in length, on the @NBCSports channel.

For those wanting reach, the deck claims that there are 3.8 million users who have subscribed to @NBCSports on YouTube. And looking back at the last Olympics which was held in Tokyo, advertisers saw an 85% ad completion rate, while 1.3 billion minutes were consumed from YouTube’s @NBCSports channel.

Social sponsorship opportunities

For this year’s Olympic Games, NBCU is offering ownable partnership franchises across TikTok, Roku, Snapchat and Overtime.

NBC will launch new, daily Olympics shows on TikTok from the @nbcolympics handle between July 27 to August 10, according to the deck. As part of this, Olympics TikTok Show will team one NBC Olympics talent with a TikTok creator for 15, 45-minute episodes which will air each day live at 11 p.m. Paris time / 5 p.m. ET. Content will include athlete interviews, segments on the ground in Paris as well as highlights from around the games.

For this platform, there are two opportunities for advertisers. The first is around storytelling. For this, two advertisers can take advantage of seven branded segments. And cutdowns of this content will be posted to @nbcolympics with paid spark distribution.

The second sponsorship opportunity involves an advertiser takeover, dubbed TikTok’s Torchlight high impact first ad takeover. This involves using TikTok’s Topfeed high impact product, which helps brands to break through the noise on the platform’s For You Page. This will be refreshed three times throughout the day (at 12 p.m., 6 p.m. and 12 a.m. ET, for an hour each — though these times could change).

Of course, this package costs $1.5 million for a two-day takeover, with the guarantee of 84 million estimated impressions.

Overtime is known for creating and distributing original, social-first sports content for Gen Z. According to the deck, 83% of Overtime’s audience is under 35. Which is why NBC has partnered with the platform to produce Olympic content for social in and around the games. The content produced will be posted on Overtime O&O handles across TikTok, Instagram Reels, In-Feed and Stories as well as Facebook, under its established franchises: SportsTok, OT On-the-Ground and & Fast Class.

Five advertisers can take advantage of the 20% share of voice (SOV) packages both pre-games and in-games. This includes custom upper-third graphics such as brand logo, tagline, color palette, graphics and so on, along with @mentions in post captions and social copy.

For any advertisers that need convincing, the platform has a track record of achieving three billion monthly video views, stated the deck.

On Snapchat, NBC will air four Olympic shows every day during the games. And there are three SOV slots available to advertisers.

The first is all about pre-games, called Best of NBC Olympics, and will feature 10 episodes, one per day. It’ll include a mix of trial highlights, athlete spotlights, archival footage and pop culture content.

The next three focus on in-game content:

  • Olympic Highlights: featuring the best moments of Olympics coverage, and is updated live
  • Olympic Spotlight: this show profiles top athletes and teams, and will also dive into the biggest storyline and performances.
  • POV Olympians: will curate the best user generated content (UGC) featuring athletes in the run up to the games as well as during their stay in the Athlete’s Village.

Each of the above will include 17 episodes, each showing once a day.

A big win for Snap is the fact that the platform sat down with NBC to pick five creators to send to the Olympics to create content around certain moments and certain events, said Anmol Malhotra, head of sports partnerships at Snapchat.

NBC partnered with Roku to provide a category-exclusive sponsorship of the NBC Olympics Zone — a centralized streaming navigation center for the games, to five advertisers that want share of voice.

Advertisers can take advantage of branded Spotlight ads, marquee ads, a branded promotional burst on the home screen menu, as well as a branded Billboard Ad within the Roku City screensaver.

NBCU did not respond to Digiday’s request for comment.

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