25 Aug 2016
Rio Olympics 2016

Rio 2016: a multichannel Olympics

The world’s eyes on Rio

While memories of the Rio 2016 Olympic games are still fresh in our minds, and we look forward to the start of the Paralympics in September, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at how the public has been keeping up with this mammoth sporting event.

We’re always fascinated by the different ways people consume media, so we decided to carry out a survey on the media channels being used by Olympics-fans. We asked 2,000 participants what methods they were using to follow the Olympics. Just like last week’s Twitter poll on business growth, we were a little surprised by some of the results.

Here’s what we found out…

Let’s start with the predictable.  Live TV gets the gold!

Despite the many digital channels available to keep up to date with the Olympics (more on those later), it’s no surprise that the good old gogglebox TV has come out on top.

According to our research, 75% of respondents watched the Olympics news live on telly. And we’re not the only ones that got that result. Research by PR Week shows that 67%  of the 500 people surveyed said the same. 

The Olympics are a very visual spectacle, so it makes sense that most people want to watch the excitement at the time it unfolds.

With the time difference between Rio and the UK meaning that most of us Brits were asleep during the action, it’s no surprise either that just over 41% of respondents watched the Olympics on digital or online TV.  It’s never been easier to catch-up on the excitement, hours after the medals had been won.

So the message here is that despite the Netflix revolution, luring ratings away from the good old BBC, clearly it’s not time to throw out our telly boxes just yet. When it comes to sport, there is just no substitute for Claire Balding’s knowledge or Helen Skelton’s outfits

Print newspapers trail behind

A little more desperate is the plight of the dwindling engagement with printed media.  According to our research, just 29% of people turned to print newspapers to follow the Rio 2016 Olympics when asked to list all the ways they engaged with the news.   In comparison, 41% of respondents opted to keep up with the Olympics through online news websites such as BBC News.

It’s no secret that circulation figures for print newspaper are in decline. Readers can obtain news immediately, and for free, online. This is especially true when it comes to following exciting stories emerging from an international sporting event. Olympics fans simply didn’t need to put up with the delay that comes from waiting to read the news in a newspaper.  It’s already at their finger tips, in real-time.

This doesn’t bode well for printed publications, which have historically been full to the brim with sporting content.  If print newspapers are to continue to appeal to sports fans, they are going to have to offer some ‘added value’ that’s not available online. They can’t compete with the emotion of viral video but perhaps they can carve a niche for themselves by creating longer, magazine-style sports features or profiles. We’re keen to see what’ll happen next.

New record: social media

Our research shows that 25% of respondents used social media as their only source of news on Rio 2016 when they couldn’t get in front of the TV. This meant they weren’t checking online news sites or on the radio, but were turning to their Facebook and Twitter accounts to get the latest Team GB news.

Guess the clue’s in the name: it’s a social network. A place where people go to share their feelings and opinions, and keep up to date with the feelings and opinions of others.

While social media was not initially intended as a serious media channel, Twitter is a favoured resource among journalists and other comms professionals. Its instant nature makes it a great place for breaking stories, following-up leads, and seeking tips.

Facebook’s emergence as a consumer news outlet is a little more unexpected. Facebook has featured a ‘trending’ tab in its sidebar since January 2014. In their own words: “It’s a personalised lists of the most mentioned words and phrases at the current time with short explanations of why each is blowing up.” While we knew this feature existed, it’s an interesting insight that users were actually relying on it to keep them updated with news such as the Olympics.  With 34% of people saying that Facebook was their go-to channel, clearly, the way we consume news is changing in ways maybe not even the pros expect…

Down at the first hurdle: Olympics apps

Just 4% of the respondents to our survey used a specific Olympics 2016 app to keep up with the games in Rio. A quick search on the app store shows several Olympic apps to choose from, yet none of them fared particularly well.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the ‘official’ app of this year’s games, received just 5 million instals… from a possible global audience of two billion smartphones.

So what went wrong?  According to this article, the app received no marketing, but was featured on the Google Play Store home page.  Considering that smartphone enabled technology is tipped to be even more prevalent in will be asking some tough questions of their mobile go-to-market strategy. 

As old pros when it comes to app launches, we know how competitive it is to achieve long-term pride of place on a user’s smartphone. It’s surprising that such an important international celebration of world sport should have fallen short when considering how to drive consumer adoption ahead of the games.

NBC’s Olympics App performed just as poorly. According to the New York Post, the app has nearly 20,000 one star reviews. Reviewers complained about its clunky interface, dodgy signal, and too many adverts.

Clearly, users are pretty intolerant when it comes to a poor mobile experience.  Any entrepreneur that has successfully taken an app to market will tell you that a beautiful interface and great concept just isn’t enough to score highly with tech-savvy users.  Developers get a slim opportunity to hook users, so they must consider the whole package. User experience (UX) is commonly an afterthought, which is perhaps why NBC’s app flopped so hard. Perhaps they ought to check out our client, Foolproof’s, Going Mobile Report. It’s full of advice on how brands can create an app that users will love. 

Our tip for the organisers of Tokyo 2020… make sure you up your app game if you want to rise from a non-compete, to a podium position.

Technology: Inspiring the next generation of Olympians

The 2012 London Olympics had an underlying mission to inspire the next generation of Olympians. Team GB certainly performed like an inspired team, bringing home a record total of medals this year. 

This summer, clever content producers have used ‘moments of inspiration’ as a theme for Olympic social media content.  For example, we saw images of a much younger gold-medalist, Laura Trott, and her childhood meeting of Bradley Wiggins hit social channels, giving us an endearing snap shot in to how far she has come with hard work and determination.  

Maybe we’ll never know how the influence of how technology has contributed to London 2012’s goal of inspiring a generation, but we strongly believe the speed and power of digital media was never going to have a negative impact. 

We’re predicting that if we continue to use video, content, social and PR to fuel public admiration for what our national team have already achieved, Tokyo 2020 will be even bigger and better for Team GB.

The future of the Olympics

We didn’t ask our respondents about this one, but we do have a few ideas about the future of viewing the Olympic games.

In our divided, post-Brexit future, we need events like the Olympics to open up the world and bring people together.  Technology has already played a huge part in changing how we are able to enjoy and engage with world events.  We suspect that the changing face of the media will continue to evolve our ability to participate in major global events, or news, wherever we may be in our daily lives.

In contrast, imagine the Olympics of 30 years ago: the medal stories taking place from the other side of the world would have filtered into the print or broadcast headlines at a pace that would horrify today’s digital generation.  We may well be witnessing the decline of printed media, but the possibilities for fast-paced, realtime media channels will make it an interesting transition.

So how will things have changed by the 2050 Olympic games? 

Well, we think things will start to get more high tech even sooner than that. As consumer VR headsets become more commercially available, we reckon that the viewing experience of future Olympic games is likely to be much more immersive. Who knows, perhaps in just twenty years we’ll have invented a brand new type of sensory experience that will include the smell of chlorine from the pools, pass on the sizzling heat from Rio or the biting cold of Russia?  We can’t wait to find out – Roll on the 360 degree Tokyo 2020 experience!

We would be interested to hear your predictions of how you think tech will affect the Olympics in years to come.

Rio 2016