For all the interest marketers have in the Olympics, evidence from YouTube suggests people are a lot more interested in the athletes themselves or even parodies of the games than they are in Olympic-themed ads.
Yet a new study from video-technology firm Zefr also indicates that views of brand ads – at least on YouTube – stem largely from posts by fans, not brands. It also shows that official sponsors don't have much edge on other advertisers when it comes to interest in their Olympic-themed videos.
Only one of the top five brands in YouTube views of Olympic-related content is an official sponsor – Visa – according to Zefr. The others are apparel brands Puma, Adidas, Under Armour, and Nike.
Overall, brand ads only account for 5% of the 7.8 billion cumulative views of Olympic-related video on YouTube to date, according to Zefr. The vast majority, perhaps unsurprisingly, are about athletes themselves (around a third); highlights from past games (13%); and videos from qualifying events (18%). Events from the London 2012 games account for a remarkable 23% of all Olympic content on YouTube. But even parodies, at 9%, account for a much bigger proportion of Olympic views than brand ads.
"That's a huge number," said Dave Rosner, exec VP-strategic marketing of Zefr, and it points to one way some brands might inject themselves into the Olympics convsersation on YouTube, he said.
The relative strength of non-sponsors should be "a huge wake-up call to brands," Mr. Rosner said. "It says, one, you don't have to be an official sponsor to be a major part of the conversation. Two, if you're an official sponsor, there's a lot more opportunity to be seen on YouTube than you've had historically."
The success of Olympic content about qualifying events and parodies also points to the sorts of content brands might want to produce to resonate with people, he said.
The Zefr research doesn't include views on platforms other than YouTube – including Facebook – where views are more likely to be driven by paid placement. On YouTube, typically 90% of views of all brand ads actually come from posts by consumers or on their channels, Mr. Rosner said. That's a product of the nature of the medium, where a "like" results in the video being posted on a user's channel.
But for the Olympics, a much higher proportion of distribution or views generally comes from brands' official channels – something that may represent the influence of paid placements or other organized activity by the brands, he said.
"We're seeing almost a 50-50 split" between views of fan posts and views of official brand posts of Olympic content, Mr. Rosner said. That split does vary significantly among brands.
For example, fan video posts accounted for around 60% of views of Procter & Gamble Olympic ads, around half of Coca-Cola ad views and only 40% of Samsung views, according to Zefr. But fan posts accounted for more than 90% of views for both McDonald's and Visa.