NBCUniversal deepens TikTok ties around uncertain Winter Olympics

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • NBCUniversal and TikTok struck an agreement to bring new content and advertising experiences to the video-sharing app around the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, according to details emailed to Marketing Dive. It is the first partnership formed out of a request for proposal process for social media platforms that NBCUniversal kicked off in November.
  • Under the deal, advertising partners with the network will be able to pilot new ad formats on TikTok. Details on what those look like were scant, but brands can draw from NBC Olympics coverage as they vie to reach sports fans. NBCUniversal claims videos with Olympics-related hashtags have generated 18 billion views on TikTok to date.
  • The network will also produce daily content across several of its TikTok handles and broadcast three livestreamed episodes of coverage hosted by an influencer from the app. The livestreams appear on the @NBCOlympics TikTok handle and a custom NBC Olympics Hub aggregating trends and daily clips from accounts including @NBCOlympics, @NBCSports, @ontheturf and @Peacocktv.

Dive Insight:

NBCUniversal continues to shuffle its Olympics strategy as sports viewing habits gravitate toward mobile and streaming channels. The network has an established relationship with TikTok that helped extend its reach for the Tokyo Games last summer. The @NBCOlympics page saw its follower count increase nearly 350% around the event, though it was also the first Olympics to occur during the modern TikTok era. The platform’s meteoric ascent in the U.S. began after parent ByteDance merged TikTok with sister app Musical.ly in 2018, and accelerated under the pandemic.

Now, NBCUniversal is looking to deepen its ties to a dominant player in social media that has strong sway over the types of young consumers who don’t tune in to traditional TV. The broadcast giant is sweetening the deal with the promise that marketing partners will be the first to test new TikTok advertising experiences, though what those will look like isn’t entirely clear. TikTok and NBCUniversal independently have pushed to innovate beyond straightforward video placements, including through more robust commerce integrations.

Meanwhile, NBCUniversal is ramping up its Olympics coverage within the app, including through an event hub aggregating its various accounts and livestreams featuring behind-the-scenes coverage led by a TikTok creator (not named in the announcement). NBCUniversal said it is finalizing the details of additional partnerships around the games and continuing to work with other social platforms. The company has a standing tie-up with Twitter that spans Olympics livestreams, highlights and pregame content.

The double-down on mobile tactics follows a somewhat bumpy execution around the Tokyo Games. Many viewers found the experience too fragmented, particularly when it came to accessing content on NBCUniversal’s streaming platform Peacock. The event also had to contend with ongoing pandemic disruptions, which already had pushed it back by a year. TV ratings for the Tokyo Olympics were down 42% compared to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 and hit the lowest levels for the Summer Games since NBC acquired the broadcast rights in 1988, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Of course, COVID-19 remains an obstacle, with the omicron variant waylaying other sporting events. Some brands are also walking on eggshells as political tensions around China make the Winter Games a contentious topic, while marketing activity has remained relatively staid, a separate Journal report found.

A strategy shakeup extends well beyond TikTok. NBCUniversal will pilot a new preferred measurement partner, iSpot.tv, for the Winter Games as well as the Super Bowl, in a break with a historic reliance on Nielsen. Advertising partners will receive iSpot.tv’s real-time airing data for linear, streaming and time-shifted viewing, along with next-day reports summarizing verified ad impressions, reach and frequency, linear and streaming overlap and incrementality. Select brands will also get access to impact-oriented measurement capabilities, including granular attention and interruption rates, business-outcome reporting and creative performance assessments.

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