What the Tokyo Olympics could mean for Beijing 2022

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“Advertisers want the Olympics to work; they want to believe that it will attract this large audience. Advertisers are willing, in many cases, to view this as an exception, but they also have this doubt in mind, ”says Fred Chasse, senior vice president of data consultancy Analytic Partners, of the Tokyo Games .

From his perspective, many of the ‘commonalities’ that hindered the Tokyo Games may still be at stake for Beijing 2022, but there is another unrelated pandemic hypothesis that, if proven, would likely hold. many traders and TV executives awake at night.

“One of the things that is a little worrying if this becomes a case of viewer disinterest in games in general. If COVID is blamed for the lower ratings, well, COVID will still be here in six months, ”Chasse said. “It’s going to look really, really bad for NBC if you have back-to-back games that don’t deliver.”

The drop in ratings may be due to a combination of an unusual Olympic schedule as well as the wider remoteness of the audience to linear television, which has been a broadcast audience factor long before these. Olympics, according to a media buyer.

The buyer pointed to the pro-sports leagues, which saw their audiences increase when teams returned to a normal competition schedule and welcomed fans back to their stadiums, but that audience was still often lower than what it was before the pandemic.

Perhaps a bigger challenge than holding the Olympics in an odd year or the lack of fans in the stands, which seems to have a more negligible impact on Tokyo’s ratings than for the National Basketball Association or the National Football League, is the distance between the United States and East Asia.

“Whenever the games are in a country that has such a big time difference, it’s a challenge. Either you have to get up at 3 am to watch your USA Soccer or you watch it in prime time where you may already know the outcome, ”says Mary Scott, president of global integrated communications at United Entertainment Group, a sports marketing agency. .

With Beijing 12 hours ahead of the US east coast (just under the 13 hour time difference from Tokyo), Scott believes the schedule of events only exacerbates the “very complicated landscape” surrounding the cities. Winter Games next year, dominated by a myriad of geopolitical and practical issues.

“From a broadcast standpoint, NBC struggled to find the right mix of what was acceptable via live coverage versus recorded coverage as they worked through the time zone challenge,” adds Carey of Optimum, adding that such programming difficulties “have led to a lot of confusion among viewers.”

“All of this will have to be settled and it will have to be settled quickly for Beijing,” he said.

But even assuming the best with COVID-19 and viewers’ interest in games, Beijing 2022 faces yet another unique hurdle: long-standing calls for a boycott by those who highlight China’s threats to Taiwan and Tibet, the repression of democracy in Hong Kong and the brutal treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the far west region of Xinjiang.

It wouldn’t be totally unprecedented, with boycotts of the Games taking place amid the Cold War, but to date more than 180 human rights groups have suggested the United States and its allies stay behind. absent would send a powerful message to China.

“At this point, I don’t think the pressure is high enough to really increase anxiety levels,” says Chasse, who hasn’t heard many concerns from his client brands about a possible boycott of. the event. But he stresses that anything is possible before February 4, the date scheduled for the opening of the Beijing Games.

The idea of ​​a boycott has also apparently resonated with neighbors to America’s north, in part thanks to a diplomatic row between Canada and China that has continued since the former Huawei executive arrested Meng Wanzhou for fraud charges in the United States in 2018; days later, China retaliated by jailing two Canadian citizens.

A recent poll by Ontario-based Nanos shows that a majority of Canadians could support such a boycott of the upcoming Winter Games, with 45% and 19% of those polled saying they fully or somewhat support a boycott, respectively.

Many advertisers might want to move beyond this tumultuous Olympic cycle and aim for the stability of the following three games: Paris in 2024, Milan and the Alpine town of Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2026, and Los Angeles in 2028 – three markets which, fortunately, are not not far from too many time zones.


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