Gen Z and the Olympics: What advertisers need to know

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Posted Nov 15, 2023
Adam Marra

We were looking to gain insights into Gen Z's perceptions of the Olympics, so we launched an 8-minute online survey to 700 Gen Z Americans aged 18-26 census balanced by gender, region, and ethnicity. After collecting responses using the aytm platform, here’s what we found:

  • Gen Z prefers the Summer Games to the Winter Games. More than two-thirds of Gen Z are likely to tune into the Summer Olympics (Compared to 56% who are likely to tune into the Winter Olympics).
  • The appeal for the Summer Olympics nearly matches that of the Super Bowl among Gen Z and far outranks other sporting events.
  • The biggest concerns among Gen Z for the Olympics include Human rights issues (30.3%), health and safety issues (28.1%), followed by corruption within organizing committees, and cheating scandals (both 26%).
  • Advertisements that stand out according to Gen Z utilize high-quality production and visuals (42.6%), unique and creative storytelling (39.9%), and highlight the athletes and their stories (39.3%).

Attitudes toward the Olympics

When it comes to the world of sports, the Olympics seem to hold a special place in the hearts of Gen Z. Our survey found that nearly two-thirds of Gen Z consumers are likely to tune in to the Summer Olympics, while over half show an interest in watching the Winter Olympics. 

The appeal of the Olympics matches that of the Super Bowl, surpassing other professional sports events like the NBA Finals, FIFA World Cup, and NCAA March Madness Tournament, among others. Gen Z is over three times as likely to watch the Winter and Summer Olympics than the Stanley Cup Finals.

Gen Z likelihood to watch major sporting events

Going beyond viewership, we delved into how Gen Z perceives the Olympics. The results were overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority (81.0%) of respondents holding a favorable impression and 46.7% expressing a very positive impression. Moreover, 45.3% regard the Olympics as extremely or very important. Only a tiny fraction (2.1%) consider the Olympics unimportant.

We also sought to unravel Gen Z's associations with this global event. Notions of competition (64.3%), global outreach (58.0%), and sportsmanship (57.1%) most resonate. Dedication (48.6%) and excellence (47.1%) are also strongly tied to the Olympics.  On the other hand, fewer Gen Z consumers readily associate sustainability (11.7%), inclusivity (23.1%), or cooperation (24.3%) with the Olympics.

Regarding the emotional landscape, the rush of excitement (49.3%) and the fervor of competitive spirit (47.9%) shape the Olympic viewing experience, followed by amazement (43.6%), admiration (41.6%), and inspiration (40.4%). Feelings of joy (31.4%), anticipation (31.0%), and unity (27.1%) are also associated with the Olympics.

Despite the excitement, most (84.6%) have at least one concern for the Olympics.

Gen Z concerns around the Olympics

Anticipation and viewership

Gen Z is highly anticipating the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics. Nearly nine in ten  (89.1%) express excitement for the event, with over a quarter (28.6%) expressing extreme excitement. Anticipation for the 2024 Summer Olympics surpasses that of the 2022 Winter Olympics, with 57.3% showcasing heightened excitement. 

93% of Gen Z are at least somewhat likely to watch the 2024 Olympics, and nearly two-thirds (63.9%) are extremely or very likely to watch. Watching the games is a group event for Gen Z, as most have plans to enjoy watching alongside family (54.9%), friends (44.6%), and partners (33.4%). Their preferred channels include YouTube (51.0%) and various streaming services (42.6%). A combination of traditional live TV options such as NBC (30.9%) and cable/satellite (30.1%), along with social media platforms like TikTok (32.1%), Instagram (30.6%), and others (28.4%), will be used to catch the action.

Swimming (58.9%), gymnastics (49.6%), and basketball (47.3%) are expected to be the most-watched events, followed by soccer (40.3%), volleyball (40.1%), track and field (36.7%), and diving (36.3%). Many plan to tune in to the new events added this coming year, including skateboarding (28.9%), surfing (24.6%), and sport climbing (18.7%).

Perceptions of Olympics advertising

Brands like Nike, adidas, and Puma are commonly associated with the Olympics, yet only one of those is a true Olympic Partner (Coca-Cola!). Among the official Olympic Worldwide Partners, Visa (68.7%), Coca-Cola (67.7%), and Toyota (66.4%) have particularly positive perceptions among a Gen Z audience. On average, the knowledge that a brand is an official sponsor improves its perception for approximately 40% of respondents.

During the Olympics, specific advertising categories are poised to capture the attention of Gen Z. 'Sports equipment and apparel' (39.4%) naturally resonates, in line with the athletic spirit of the event, followed by ‘food and beverage brands' (34.6%). Additionally, 'health and wellness products/services' (32.0%) and 'travel and tourism' (31.7%) closely trail, with 'entertainment and streaming services' (26.9%) following suit.

It’s notable that nearly one-fifth (19.9%) find 'non-profit organizations and social causes'  relevant, speaking to Gen Z’s commitment to societal issues.

Gen Z viewers look for several key factors for an advertisement to stand out and make a lasting impression. ‘High-quality production and visuals' (42.6%) are a top priority, indicating the importance of visually engaging content. 'Unique and creative storytelling' (39.9%) and 'highlighting the athletes and their stories' (39.3%) also play a pivotal role, underscoring the significance of narrative and human connection.

Gen Z on what makes Olympics ads stand out and be memorable

An advertisement's ability to deliver a 'clear and compelling message about the brand/product,’ 'emotional or inspirational content,’ and 'effective use of music and sound' holds weight. However, one-fifth of potential viewers are concerned about ‘commercialization and corporate influence’, so brands should keep authenticity and transparency top of mind.

The Closing Ceremony

Our findings illuminate Gen Z's profound enthusiasm and deep connection with the Olympic games, reflecting engagement that transcends traditional viewership. Their overwhelmingly positive perception of the Olympics and diverse interest in its sports underscores an appreciation for the event, and their openness to multi-category advertising presents an opportunity for brands to connect meaningfully with viewers. As the world gears up for the 2024 Summer Olympics, the anticipation and excitement within the Gen Z community signify a promising landscape for both the event and the brands affiliated with it.

Want to dig deeper into the results of this study? We have more to share!

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