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Snapchat becomes Olympics player

News, 17 August 2016

SAN FRANCISCO: Almost one third of Snapchat's daily active users have viewed Olympics content, as younger fans turn to the social network for bite-sized updates on events in Rio.

Broadcasters, including NBC (US) and Globo (Brazil), have partnered with Snapchat to show Olympics content, while the former has also recruited digital publisher BuzzFeed to supply a take on what's happening for its Snapchat Discover channel; athletes themselves have also reported from the front line.

Over the first seven days of the competition, 49m unique visitors watched Olympics clips in Snapchat Live Stories, the Financial Times reported.

While Facebook remains by far the most popular social network in the US – and is reportedly paying some athletes in Rio to shoot live streams for it – Snapchat has rapidly become a challenger for the second spot, along with Instagram and Twitter.

And its emergence as a player in the crowded sports field has attracted the attention of major advertisers.

Earlier this month it announced seven official brand partners – Sony Pictures, Walmart, Dick's Sporting Goods, Hershey's, Dunkin' Donuts, Finish Line and Ford – who would be running ads in its Olympics content via dedicated Live Story and Discover channels.

London 2012 was described as the first social media games, but that referred largely to Facebook and Twitter. Back then, Snapchat had been going for less than a year and Instagram was only 12 months older.

Marcello Magalhaes, Chief Strategy Officer at Leo Burnett US, observed that the spread of social media was leading to "a massive takeover of the official Olympics broadcast", adding that "it's no longer possible to only have one standalone narrative".

Brands at the Olympics – and other major sporting events – will have to shift their messages from awareness to relevance, he wrote in the Huffington Post.

It's a view backed up by recent research from marketing consultants Olson Zaltman, which explored how and why Millennials watch the Olympics, with, for example, many associating the event with childhood memories of the whole family staying up late, telling stories and sharing in the excitement.

When sentiments like these were tied into advertising creative, however, it became apparent that those brands that simply piggy-backed on the Olympic rings without a relevant brand connection did not perform particularly well.

"An ad with a compelling story that tapped into the Millennial way of thinking resonated deeply, even when the rings and other Olympic iconography were secondary elements," the research said.

Data sourced from Financial Times, Huffington Post, Ad Week; additional content by Warc staff