7 Things Advertisers Need to Know About the Programmatic Games in 2020

The first fully programmatic games kick off on July 24, ushering in a new era of sports advertising. Here are seven things brands need to know in order to maximize their impact on this international stage.

1. Tokyo’s Time Zone Will Be an Asset, Not a Liability
Not so long ago, the 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and New York would have posed a major scheduling obstacle. How exciting can primetime coverage really be when the competition took place half a day ago? In the age of streaming, viewers can (and will) tune in to moments in real time, around the clock—granting marketers greater opportunities to engage with consumers, whether via in-image mobile ads during the morning commute or on their late-night social media scroll.

2. New Sports Will Target Younger Audiences
Organizers overhauled the Tokyo competition lineup with the addition of five new sports, all in an attempt to lure younger viewers to watch. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us,” said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. “We have to go to them.” Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing will all make their debut, while baseball and softball will return after a 12-year hiatus. Though it’s too soon to say if the IOC’s efforts will be rewarded, the outlook is promising: More than half of 13- to 18-year-olds surveyed said the new sports increase their likelihood of watching the Games—good news for brands seeking youthful impressions.

3. Cross-Channel Coverage Will Dominate
Finally, technology has caught up to the glut of compelling content that the 17-day spectacle produces. Athletes will compete in 339 events across 33 sports, generating 3,000 hours of coverage—and at the first truly programmatic games, not a moment of it will be wasted. While viewers will still gather around their televisions for those marquee gold-medal moments, plenty will prefer to keep up with the action on their phones, tablets, laptops and other devices. A sign of the times: NBC recently announced a partnership with Twitter to air live content and an exclusive daily 20-minute morning recap show on the platform. “Twitter provides a perfect complement to our coverage and is an ideal platform for the massive social conversation that occurs,” said NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel. To maximize Tokyo’s advertising potential, brands will need a nimble, intelligent strategy that targets sports fans in a contextually relevant way across the full range of channels.

4. Greater Gender Equality and the Millennial Makeover
For the first time, very close to half (48.2%) of the more than 10,000 athletes competing in Tokyo will be female, making it the most gender-equal in history. Sports such as boxing, canoe/kayak and rowing have added women’s events and eliminated some men’s contests, while archery, judo, shooting, track and field, triathlon, table tennis and swimming will all include mixed-team events—allowing men and women to compete alongside and against one another. With thoughtful contextual targeting will create prime opportunities for brands to connect with values-driven consumers around themes of equality and fair play.

5. Your Competitors Will Be There
NBC anticipates record-setting ad sales, which are expected to exceed the $1.2 billion mark reached during the last Summer event. “We are pacing significantly ahead of where we were at this same point prior to Rio,” announced Dan Lovinger, executive VP of advertising sales for NBC Sports Group, a year before the opening ceremony. For reference, NBC averaged 26 million primetime viewers and a 26 share throughout—meaning brands won’t want to stay home when the world turns its eyes to Tokyo.

6. Gold-Medal Brand Exposure Won’t Have to Cost a Fortune
Megabrands will still seize pricey traditional sponsorships, primetime ad slots and homepage takeovers—but the real storyline for marketers will be the democratization of the advertising spotlight. The avenues for brands to tap the Tokyo buzz will be as varied as the ways in which fans will be consuming its content. AI-powered tech will help brands make the most of this marketing opportunity: Products like GumGum’s targeted sponsorships will utilize computer vision to identify images and text associated with the event and deliver relevant in-image ads at the moment brands need them most, while semantic analysis will enable a better understanding of users’ interests to ensure ads are placed in the appropriate context. The result? A more nuanced, intentional approach to sharing the limelight, without burning the budget.

7. Accurate Measurement Will Require a Digital Assist
Come August 9, when the medals have all been awarded, how will brands know if their advertising investment was worthy of the winners’ podium? Sports sponsorships are notoriously difficult to measure, with an estimated 40 to 60 percent of such inventory missing a significant chunk of its value. To gain a true view of success, savvy brands will use technology like computer vision to understand the full extent of their impressions, engagement and reach across all channels.

Illustrations by Tishk Barzanji