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How Brand Purpose Can Help Guide Advertising Strategy at Rio Olympics

Navigate the proliferation of screens and narratives to curate content and achieve relevancy, says Leo Burnett US Chief Strategy Officer Marcello Magalhaes

Given the advancement in mobile technology since the London Summer Games in 2012, Rio 2016 presents radical changes in the way the Olympic Games are broadcast to the world.

The mobile average download speed has tripled from 2012 to 2016, while smartphone penetration has jumped from 20 percent (1.24B connections) to 50 percent (3.94B connections). Meanwhile, users have quickly adopted and adapted to the wide array of social and broadcasting apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Live, as well as many other data-intensive applications that offer video streaming that were simply impossible four years ago. And it’s not only the people: NBC and Globo (Brazil’s leading broadcaster) have partnered with Snapchat to generate Olympics content.

What we are witnessing is a massive takeover of the official Olympics broadcast. Where is this content coming from? Because the smartphone is much more pervasive and accessible, it’s almost impossible to conceive of just one narrative. While people will see through TV the official story of the Games, it’s no longer possible to only have one standalone narrative. And that’s just the viewers. If we also consider the people who will be there shooting with their mobile phones, we know it’s impossible to prevent people from registering their experience during the Olympic Games. The challenge brands will have, apart from IOC restrictions on brand messaging, is finding a meaningful stream of stories to tell.

Instead of trying to prevent, ignore or avoid being pulverized by this barrage of content, brands — official sponsors or otherwise — should be able to embrace the opportunity. Guided by clear purpose and principles, they can align behind these screens through a consistent curatorship of channels and platforms to share with people. (And this would be true for any large-scale media event, from the Super Bowl to the FIFA World Cup.)

Both official and non-official sponsor brands will have to break through the clutter of content sharing and distribution by shifting their messages from awareness to relevance.

What’s awareness? If we consider the past events, not only the Olympics, the dynamic for advertisers was to get ahold of the most — time on air, eyeballs watching — that they could to optimize their investment. Because of the number of channels we have access to nowadays, not only the official ones, but also the individual ones — anyone in Rio has a potential channel, literally, in his or her hand — signifying that awareness alone is becoming an outdated performance measurement.

Relevance, then, becomes more important as it relates to how interested people are in a brand’s story instead of just its appearance or awareness. A brand that manages to find a meaningful way to curate all this content being distributed via these myriad channels will have the most impactful stories to tell. People will thus feel encouraged to participate along with the brand, and that is a result of relevance.

That’s the interesting creative and strategic work a brand can do; this is why brand purpose is so important. Purpose is the guardrail of what is consistent, what is interesting and what fuels the brand, versus what is generic.

How can brands leverage this myriad of narratives to either protect their investment as official sponsors or take advantage of it while not being an official sponsor? How can brands have a relevant participation in the Games by tapping into these channels?

With a clear brand purpose, it is much easier to link back to a specific and ownable idea. For instance, it’s easy to see brands leaning on a story around performance during the Olympics. If we’re talking about “performance,” that’s probably not ownable for every brand around the Games because you’ll have watches, technology, sports garments — so many brands that will tap into and reinforce that core benefit sports deliver. Not all brands can do that! Now thanks to all this content that has been generated — not only the official broadcast but also content that’s been broadcast by people — you can harness something unique to your brand that is ownable. If you can surface content that aligns with your brand purpose, you can curate that content and say, “This is my view of the Games.” It’s not a generic one, not one that somebody can imitate. It’s authentic and truthful to what your brand believes.

Marcello Magalhaes is chief strategy officer of Leo Burnett US. Follow him on Twitter @marcemagal.