Competing for Eyeballs – Rio Olympics Edition

While the world’s elite athletes are competing for medals in Rio de Janeiro, a battle for viewers is being waged by cable and broadcast networks, social media and streaming platforms.
One of the key properties Comcast gained with its 2011 purchase of NBCUniversal was the rights to air the Olympics games in the US.  And now Comcast, through its Xfinity cable subsidiary is leveraging new platforms and apps to engage subscribers with Olympics content. As cord-cutting increases, Comcast is looking to upgrade current subscribers as well as entice new users with exclusive Olympics content available only through their partnership with the USOC.  NBCUniversal now has an exhaustive schedule of Olympics viewing across NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, USA, Bravo and more through the X1 application.

In a bid to reach cord-cutters and mobile users, Google has dispatched YouTube stars such as Liza Koshy, Brodie Smith, Ben Brown, Caeli, Chloe Morello and Felipe Castanhari to livestream parts of the games and special events in host city Rio. Google is leveraging content from these Creators into search, maps and mobile applications to increase engagement. YouTube is also offering subscribers an IOC channel to increase visibility beyond US-centric users.

Not to be left out of the mobile/streaming wars, Facebook and Instagram have partnered with NBC to create a Social Media Command Center with access to NBC commentators and behind-the-scenes video.

Early reports indicate that live viewership for the Olympics is down versus the 2012 London Games.  Some are faulting excessive commercial breaks and ongoing concerns about Rio’s preparedness for the games.  But with so many options, are viewers choosing to engage with the 2016 Olympic Games in other ways rather than just live TV?

Some thoughts for marketers:
*Are the increased numbers of platforms and channels to choose for Olympic content possibly confusing or overwhelming viewers?
*Which brands are best leveraging the variety of platforms in order to connect with target consumers?
*What is your favorite way to watch the Olympics?

Marketing Assets

ATHLETICISM v SEX APPEALI’ve been noodling around the dilemna that face sports marketers in promoting women’s sports —athleticism vs. sex appeal.

Men are rarely criticized (by women or men) for flaunting their natural assets — witness David Beckham in Armani’s 2008 advertising campaign. In fact, men are appreciative, almost aspirationally so, of a guy displaying his assets and women are often quite verbal about a man’s sex appeal. In a recent airing of The View, when L. L. Cool J joined the ladies on the sofa, there was a whole lot of verbal acknowledgement of L.L.’s particular assets.

By contrast, women, whose natural assets include their curves, hair, etc. are not generally ‘allowed’ to promote their natural wares without controversy from many directions. When you look at Serena Williams’ recent Jane magazine photo shoot or Amanda Beard’s Playboy layout, in addition to the obvious, they also bring their undeniable athletic successes. Plus, these women have more control over their images and careers than their peers from earlier generations and have invested a great deal of time and energy to sculpt their bodies to maximize their athleticism. Why shouldn’t they celebrate this?

I can’t help but wonder: is the debate about the appropriateness of a woman showing off her body rooted in a time when she was a marginalized, accidental or controversial player on various stages, e.g., career, money, power, position, etc., traditionally monopolized by men? Could it be that America as a culture has not quite found the balance between whether women are exercising personal choice or are victims of some form of exploitation–whether it’s movies, advertising or the corporate environment?

A few years ago Dove launched its highly successful campaign for real beauty which featured “real women” feeling good about their bodies and themselves. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see women across the spectrum reflect a healthy acceptance of all of who we are–curves and all? If Dove can make the marriage between a woman and her curves work then surely sports marketing–where the body is an important element–can do the same.

ESPN: Keeping it Fresh after 30 Years

ESPNAs a sports junkie I am a big time fan of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. As tuned in as I am to ESPN (I watch it as much as possible, my days begin with Mike & Mike and end with Sportscenter) I recently noticed a couple of new offerings from the sports leader: original programming is not limited to ESPN on-air as you can now catch the talented, dry-witted Kenny Mayne on Mayne Street on ESPN online; with the April 2009 launch of Sportscenter Los Angeles, ESPN might well boast that they are the last word on the day in sports; on July 6th 2009 SportsNation – the place for sports fans to express their opinions and interact with ESPN – begins airing. These are just a few examples of the networks commitment to innovation. When you look at the story of their beginnings, it’s clear that innovation is in ESPN’s dna.

ESPN was the brainchild of Bill Rasmussen, an unemployed sports announcer. His vision–a 24/7 network dedicated to sports. At a time when there was no CNN or MTV, it’s easy to imagine the criticism he must have encountered. But Rasmussen was not deterred. On September 7, 1979 ESPN was launched with Sportscenter (a daily sports news television show) which is the flagship program of the network and, 30 years later, the network has expanded into a global force. ESPN is TV, radio and print; original programming (including sports talk shows, movies, ESPY awards) and investigative reporting; an outlet for every sport under the sun (traditional and Xtreme, local and international) and accessible on every media platform available.

For the sports aficionado or even the casual viewer, with ESPN there’s never a dull moment–from the talent to the programming. They keep it fresh by leading not following, staying true to its vision as the worldwide leader in sports and, most of all, by giving consumers what they want wherever they are. ESPN’s track record suggests they’ve nailed it! What can other networks learn from ESPN’s enduring success?