Olympic & Paralympic Advertising: A Look at Inclusion

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and Paralympics are finally upon us and the advertising world has taken notice. While the Super Bowl and FIFA World Cup prove to be an important time for advertisers, there is no other athletic event that draws more global attention than the Olympics. Case in point: NBCUniversal has already sold over $1 billion dollars in ad sales [1] in hopes to reach the approximately 3.6 billion people around the world expected to tune in to the live broadcasts [2]. With such wide spread outreach across traditional media channels and the ever-expanding reach of digital, advertisers are reexamining how they connect with viewers during these events.

For instance, as brands continue to expand their social consciousness in order to reflect the lives of consumers, diversity in advertising has become a growing topic of interest in recent years. Many advertisers are now focusing on the lesser known Paralympics, which are held shortly after the Olympics and highlight athletes with a range of physical disabilities. While the Paralympics have historically garnered less attention from some advertisers, the 2016 games show a trend in advertisers becoming more inclusive of abilities within their campaigns, proving a greater understanding of what resonates with their audience and for what the Olympic and Paralympic games truly stand for. 

Although Olympic campaigns in the past have expressed diversity, this year’s ads make a point to be intentionally more inclusive of all backgrounds and abilities. Here are some of our favorite ads from Rio 2016: 


Channel 4

*Total views at time of publishing: 3,101,926



Our first example is from British television station Channel 4, the official broadcaster of the games in the UK. Channel 4 went above and beyond, bringing back its 2012 “Superhumans” campaign to promote the upcoming event. In addition, their 2016 campaign brought a new level of attention, surpassing the views of its 2012 ad with over three million views in just three weeks. 

What makes the ad special is the inclusion of people other than athletes. Though they have a range of physical disabilities, the advertisement notes that their skills and talents are no less limited than people without disabilities. Brands like Allianz, BP, and other sponsors of the Paralympic games are sure to have a new found pride in their sponsorship, knowing that their ads will be running in parallel with a commercial that shows how we can unite in differences and similarities. 


Dick’s Sporting Goods

*Total views at time of publishing: 889,233



U.S. based company Dick’s Sporting Goods released an advertisement in March supporting the dedication of Team USA athletes. However, the real stand-out feature is the fact that Dick’s employs close to 200 athletes who are competing in Rio, with 19 competing in para-athletic events. This campaign shows that not only does Dick’s sponsor athletes, but also that the company is exemplary in the realm of equal employment opportunities. Viewers can see that Dick’s Sporting Goods shares in the dreams of those who look to achieve greatness in their sport, and believes that strength and determination cannot be limited by physical impairments. 



*Total views at time of publishing: 814,768



Many brands began launching ads for the games well before the games to start building anticipation. For instance, Visa premiered its first ad at the end of June, kicking off a campaign that shows what the financial services organization has been working towards: acceptance.

Visa sponsors dozens of athletes from an array of countries and backgrounds, which becomes more apparent as their campaign unfolds. While the commercial briefly shows people from differing cultural backgrounds and abilities, Visa’s mission becomes clear when people interact with the brand online. Their site runs exposés on many of the athletes they sponsor, from Muslim fencing contender Ibtihaj Muhammad who competes in a hijab, to Alana Nichols who has won gold medals for wheelchair basketball and Paralympic alpine skiing. In addition, the campaign uses the tagline “Accepted Here” to play on the idea of Visa products being accepted everywhere, while also conveying the idea of acceptance of all types of people. 


Rio 2016 Take Away

Progress in Olympic and Paralympic advertising is easy to recognize since the events take place every few years. They represent societal trends and sentiment by highlighting what people value at that point in history. However, the question becomes this: how can advertisers continue to reflect the values of people in the weeks, months, and years in between? 

We continually see new representations of gender, ethnicity, and ability that haven’t previously been a focal point in advertising. As the games come to a close, it will be interesting to see if brands choose to continue with producing advertisements that highlight social sentiment or take a different approach as they continue to evolve for the future.

What are your favorite advertising moments leading up to Rio 2016? If you’re interested in more industry news and opinion, subscribe to our newsletter HERE.


*Total views likely to change


1: http://www.businessinsider.com/nbc-sold-over-1-billion-in-olympics-adver...

2: http://www.bbc.com/sport/olympics/36084489


Image courtesy Olympics.org



By Luke Sword
About the Author:

Luke Sword is an Advertising Analyst at Ebiquity, plc

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