The Olympics are a perennial crowd pleaser that draws in a massive global audience. “For 18 days every two years, the entire world is focused on the Olympic Games,” said Brian Gordon of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off on February 9th in Pyeongchang in an opening ceremony that featured time tested spectacles like fireworks and newer concepts like a choreographed drone swarm.

While the athletes are still the center of attention, advertisers and media giants have been preparing to take part in this global event as well.

NBC Updates Ad Metrics

Fresh from selling out advertising at the Super Bowl, NBC announced ad sales for the Winter Olympics have topped a record $900 million, already beating the total for the 2014 Sochi games.

Although ad sales are up, TV ratings for the Olympics have been declining slightly the past few years. Audiences have been migrating to other content channels, which is why, for the first time ever, NBC sold commercials based on total viewers across channels.

So, a viewer watching an Olympic event on their local NBC affiliate broadcast, a cable channel like CNBC or USA, or streaming to a smart TV or mobile device will be counted equally. NBC is arguing that the audiences are close enough to be treated alike and that this move is a necessary response to changing viewer habits.

Brands Chase Global Aspirations

The Olympics represent global togetherness and triumphing over incredible obstacles. These are images many brands want to be associated with and several are taking this opportunity to strengthen their connection to the games and its stars.

PELOTON

Cycling isn’t a winter sport, but stationary bike maker Peloton, sees a kindred spirit in the games and has decided their recent growth deserves a push to go even bigger. The six-year-old company’s biggest marketing campaign ever will include TV spots and live-streamed spinning classes from South Korea.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpw5vcjWd3c&w=1300&h=600&rel=0 ]

ALIBABA

Chinese mega conglomerate and ecommerce site Alibaba, isn’t yet a household name in the U.S. and has limited advertising outside of China. They are using the Olympics to change that with a brand awareness campaign that spans several countries.

The campaign, built around an underdog theme and the motto “to the greatness of small,” will appear on billboards in South Korea, TV commercials in China, and social media ads in the U.S., U.K., and Japan.

Alibaba, founded by Jack Ma, a former school teacher who has become the richest man in China, may have underdog roots, but it runs with the elite today. In 2017, they announced a long-term deal to be an official Olympics sponsor until 2028.

UNITED AIRLINES

The official airline of Team USA, United Airlines, which has held that post for 38 consecutive years, is launching two thirty-second spots for the Pyeongchang games. The commercials laud the unsung heroes that support Team USA, including the actual United employees that flew them to South Korea.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fftOXnyjTwc&w=1300&h=600&rel=0 ]

TOYOTA

Six-second ads, which first gained prominence during the 2017 NFL season, are gaining in popularity. Toyota produced several for the games, hoping to take advantage of the many natural transition points in the broadcast such as between events and during anchor hand offs.

MARVEL X SPYDER

Twitter was abuzz on the first day of the games over alpine sensation Mikaela Shiffrin’s “Captain Marvel” ski suit. The superhero-themed racing gear, which also includes “Captain America” suits for the men, is the result of a two-year collaboration between Marvel’s owner Disney, ski apparel brand Spyder, and the U.S. Ski Team.

VISA

Shiffrin is also appearing in Visa’s 60-second Olympic commercial. In a decidedly new media move, they are using their 54 strong roster of Olympic and Paralympic athletes to promote the spot.

Lynne Biggar, chief marketing and communications officer for Visa, said in a statement: “When it came time to launch the film, we couldn’t have asked for a better medium than the athletes’ own social media channels.”

RALPH LAUREN

All American clothing designer, Ralph Lauren, is once again the official outfitter of the U.S. team. This year’s clothes will be slightly toastier than the duds designed for Sochi thanks to electronic-printed conductive inks in the shape of an American flag sewn into the jackets that provide up to 11 hours of heat.

By way of promotion, the clothier is running a social media campaign around the hashtag: #HeatTheWayForTeamUSA. For every post with the tag liked on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, Ralph Lauren will donate $1 to the U.S. Olympic Committee, up to $100,000.

The winning spirit of the Olympics captivates the world. We all share in the glory and travails of our athletes. Top brands are no strangers to intense competition and are bringing their A games to Pyeongchang. All the players are in place. All that’s left is waiting to see who takes the top spot on the podium.

While we watch the athletes and advertisers offer up their best performances, one can’t help but feel the intense excitement of competition and the grand opportunity to succeed in a big way.