Not all winners from the Olympics have medals
"None of these athletes won medals, but they won something just as valuable"
I became obsessed with the Olympics. For a brief period of time, I didn’t even care that I was in lockdown, because it meant I didn’t have to feel guilty about being glued to the telly all day.
I stayed up late to watch sports I never usually watch. I was emotionally invested in complete strangers. When Patty Mills cried, I cried.
Anecdotally, my friends, family and colleagues were all getting behind the games. Statistically, I wasn’t the only one either. It was the most successful games from an audience viewing perspective, in the history of Seven’s affiliation with broadcasting it. 19.9 million Australians watched the coverage of the games on both Seven and 7plus, with 363 million minutes on 25 July alone - making it the biggest day of streaming in Australian television (source OzTAM and Seven).
It was the first time Seven used a multi platform approach, across Seven, 7mate and 7 plus. One of their big goals going in, was to grow their 7plus user base. The AFR reported that they had 43 per cent growth through the Olympic period, which is a seriously impressive result.
Interestingly, many of these were men under 40, where previously it had been a female skewed platform. While the growth was phenomenal, they’ll now need to work on a retention strategy to capitalise on the numbers.
Traditional TV was also a hit, ending with a 62.7 per cent audience network share - three times more than Seven’s closest rival network. Seven capitalised on this by using the Olympics as a marketing platform for upcoming shows like The Voice and SAS Australia. It paid off, with The Voice was number one in all key demographics.
While Seven is salivating in their Olympics success, they weren’t the only winners. The International Olympic Committee makes almost 75 percent of its revenue from selling TV rights to networks like Seven. The Associated Press estimated that it will earn $3-4 billion dollars from this year’s event - which was an unprecedented TV only games, after spectators were banned due to COVID.
And then of course there were all the sponsors leveraging their primetime slots and the athletes that spruiked them. But the real winners are the athletes. Not necessarily the ones that came home with bling, but the athletes that won our hearts.
Let’s start with one of the most courageous stories from the games, Peter Bol. He made it to the final of the men’s 800m, the first time in 53 years we’ve had someone in the final of this event, and was a real chance of a medal. After leading for most of the race, Peter finished just short of the podium in fourth place. But he struck gold in the hearts and minds of the Aussie people.
In Peter’s post race interview you could see he was disappointed, but he spoke so beautifully about being carried by knowing the whole of Australia was watching him, that it became a moment of unity for the Australian public. He wasn’t wrong either, his race was the most watched event of the games in metro areas and second most nationally (source OzTAM and Seven).
Rohan Browning winning his 100m heat and beating world champion Yohan Blake was another iconic moment. Blake looking over as the Aussie blistered past him on the finish line caught the attention of media and Aussies alike. Whilst he didn’t make it to the final, his performance put him on the map and his confident post race call for more believers has certainly been answered.
And who could forget the bubbly Riley Day. She ran a PB in her semi-final for the women’s 200m, but just narrowly missed out on a spot in the final. She was still ecstatic with her best ever performance and it radiated in her post race interview. And the achievement was made even more remarkable when it was revealed that Riley has no major sponsors and funded her trip by working at Woolies. She encouraged Aussies to follow her journey on Instagram and went from 23,900 to 56,200 followers in 24 hours.
At the time of writing this, she is sitting at 109,000 followers. Her story of hard work and determination, won the nation over, with some even taking to social media to demand Woolies sponsor her. It worked. The supermarket giant announced that it’s sponsoring Reily through to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
None of these athletes won medals, but they won something just as valuable. Fans. Being an elite athlete takes talent and determination, but being able to fund your dream is just as important. That’s where sponsors come in. They contribute financially, and sometimes with products, to support athletes. The Olympics isn’t just a time for Seven to market new shows or brands to show their latest product, it’s also a time for athletes to market themselves and develop their personal brand.
In all these examples, the post-race interview was crucial in winning the hearts and minds of Aussies, as it showed the values of the athlete beyond their amazing athletic abilities. Dripping in sweat and gasping for air, they still made time for the camera - the people cheering them on at home - and they were rewarded for it. I suspect it won't be long before we see Peter, Rohan and Riley on our screens again, this time with some well known brands. Good on them, they deserve it!