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With the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics six months away, NBC Sports Group is gearing up to beat last year’s record-breaking ad revenue windfall, prior to the Games’ Covid-related postponement.

The company is currently working with marketers to craft more effective ads for the Summer Games. It’s creating an Olympics Ad Engine that uses past Games’ spots and data to make suggestions on how their new spots can be modified to achieve five different marketing objectives: awareness (attention index), ad breakthrough (ad, brand and message memorability), brand perception (likeability), brand engagement (tweets based on the TV ad airing), and search impact (search engagement volume).

“2021 is going to provide brands with a once in a generation opportunity for exponential growth,” Mark Marshall, NBCUniversal president of advertising sales and partnerships, told reporters.

Marshall pointed to research showing consumer spending is expected to grow 5% in 2021. Given the expectations of an economic rebound once Covid-19 vaccinations reach a large scale, most of that growth expected the second half of the year.  “All of this is going to result in the ability to materially change the trajectory of a company or brand that advertises in these games.”

‘CMOs need tools to make really tough decisions’

However, “we think that CMOs need tools to make really tough decisions,” Dan Lovinger, evp, ad sales, NBC Sports Group, said. For major events like the Super Bowl and Olympics, “the biggest hurdle for CMOs is often the creative hurdle, because of the opportunity for ridicule.”

So NBCUniversal Insights and Measurement team looked at 671 ads from the past two Olympics (PyeongChang in 2018 and Rio in 2016), tagging 897 ad elements and building 540 models. The company worked with Hive, iSpot.tv, Phoenix, and EDO to create the Olympics Ad Engine, which combines human curation and machine learning.

There are several elements that have the greatest impact on each marketing objective, according to the engine, such as comedic tone. Featuring a celebrity helps awareness, while animal presence and a working class sensibility boosts ad breakthrough. Patriotic stirrings and the presence of food boosts brand perception. Innovation and an uplifting message spurs brand engagement. Lastly, an ad length greater than 30 seconds, along with a dramatic aura lifts search impact.  

Olympics marketers can put scripts, storyboards or the rough cut of a current spot through the Olympics Ad Engine. From there, the tool will calculates the most likely results as to how it will resonate with viewers.

NBCUniversal had initially planned to get the offering into the marketplace last year, prior to the originally-scheduled 2020 games. The coronavirus-related postponement “allowed us to actually improve the model even more,” said Lovinger.

Five brands are already interested in the Olympics Ad Engines based on early conversations, according to Lovinger. He expects many more to sign on.

Evolving from the Super-Sized Ad Model

This is the second iteration of this offering for advertisers. Ahead of NBC’s Super Bowl LII broadcast in 2018, the NBCUniversal management sciences and business insights team and the NBC Sports Group ad sales insights and measurement team created the Super-Sized Ad Model.

The model looked at five key objectives for potential Super Bowl advertisers: creative appeal, creative engagement, social buzz, Google search and ad cut through.

By sharing the results in more than 100 meetings with marketers, “we were able to talk to advertisers in a way that nobody’s ever talked to them about the Super Bowl,” Lovinger told Adweek in 2018. “And that got us 10 or 12 spots earlier than we would have normally seen that interest.”





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