Independent Studies



With the Vancouver Games earning high marks by the press for unanticipated and possibly unexplainable success, a study of Olympic viewers by Performance Research and Survey Sampling International settles the score even further.

The “Big Three” continue to dominate awareness of Olympic sponsors:

Consumer awareness of Olympic sponsors continues to be dominated by a small group of Olympic stalwarts, with just over two-thirds confirming the involvement of Coca-Cola (confirmed by 68%), McDonald’s (68%), and Visa (66%). Most other official Olympic sponsors were distantly behind with less than half the awareness of the Big Three: AT&T was closest (36% aided recall), followed by newcomer Procter & Gamble (27%), General Electric (25%), Samsung (24%) and Panasonic (21%). All other sponsors tested achieved less than 20% awareness. As Official Outfitter for the U.S. Olympic Team, Nike (worn by U.S. athletes on the medal podium) achieved 52% awareness, double that of Polo Ralph Lauren (worn by athletes for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies) with 26%.

Not surprisingly, the same top trio of brands was listed for respondents’ choice of favorite Olympic commercials. Coca-Cola headed the list, with 19% naming (unaided) Coke’s “Snowball” ad as their favorite. McDonald’s ads featuring athletes eating chicken McNuggets were named as a favorite by 11%, and a collection of Visa commercials featuring various Olympic athletes were reported as favorite by 7%.

The same trio of companies also led the pack for those, “Doing the most to support the Olympic Games” (Coca-Cola- 19%, Visa- 15%, McDonald’s- 13%) and for those “Best showing the spirit of the Olympics” (Coca-Cola- 18%, McDonald’s-14%, Visa- 11%).

Ambush marketing is alive and well at the Olympic Games:

Although total awareness of McDonald’s sponsorship (68%) was more than double that of Subway, Subway was still associated with the Olympic Games by over one-fourth of the sample (26%). Subway’s use of Michael Phelps in advertising related to the Olympic Games earned them some recognition: Nearly one-half (49%) claimed to have seen the Phelps ad; Among those seeing the ad, 79% believed that “Subway supports the U.S. Olympic team”, and 64% agreed that “Subway embodies the spirit of the Olympics”.

Although not quite as visible, Verizon, an official sponsor of U.S. Speed Skating (but not an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team or the Vancouver Games) , also earned a level of Olympic association. 42% confirmed that they had seen Verizon’s ads using speed skaters. An overwhelming majority of those seeing the ad (83%) believed, “Verizon supports the U.S. Olympic team”, and almost two-thirds (64%) indicated that “Verizon embodies the spirit of the Olympics”. By comparison, just 35% claimed to have seen official U.S. Olympic Team sponsor AT&T’s ad with snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler riding through outer space; Among those seeing the AT&T ad, a nearly identical 86% believed “AT&T supports the U.S. Olympic team”, and 77% agreed that “AT&T embodies the spirit of the Olympics”.

The Olympic Games are not seen as an overly commercial event, and there is a respectable level of support for Olympic sponsors:

Over two-thirds of Olympic viewers in this study (67%) reported the level of commercialism associated with the Olympic Games to be “Acceptable”; 27% believed it to be “Over-commercialized”. These results are virtually unchanged from data collected during the Beijing Olympics, where 26% reported the Games to be “Over-commercialized”.

In a favorable nod toward sponsors, 60% indicated that they are “Very” or “Somewhat” interested in knowing who the sponsors of the Olympics are, and almost one-third (30%) reported that compared to the last time they watched the Winter Games, their overall reaction to corporate sponsorship is “More positive” than it was before; 62% claimed that it has remained the same.

Moreover, the majority (55%) agreed “Very much” or “Somewhat ” with the statement, “Corporate sponsorship of the Olympics, in order to keep the events going, is more important now than ever”. A majority (54%) also agreed “Very much” or “Somewhat” with the statement, “Corporate sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic team, in order to keep U.S. athletes competitive, is more important now than ever”.

Just like sponsors, there are a “Big three” in terms of favorite Winter Olympic sports and most familiar / most admired athletes, but the leading preferred sports aren’t delivering the top stars:

Figure skating (51%), snowboarding (34%), and ice-hockey (32%) led the race for Winter Olympic events that U.S. fans are most passionate about, with all others mentioned by fewer than one-quarter of the sample.

But in a twist, the most familiar athletes hailed from less popular sports: Using a scale of 1-10 where one means “Not familiar at all” and 10 means “Very familiar”, Apolo Ohno (short track speed skating) headed the list (with 64% assigning ratings of 7 -10). Shaun White (snowboarding half-pipe) followed closely, with 62%. Skier Lindsey Vonn was the top recognized female athlete (50%), beating Bode Miller on the familiarity scale (44%). Rounding out the top-five was speed skater Shani Davis, with 41%. [Figure skating gold medallist Evan Lysacek earned familiarity ratings among just 36% of the sample, and was matched by teammate Johnny Weir, also 36%.]

And who takes the gold for being the most admired athlete from the Winter Games?
Apolo Ohno and Shaun White shared the podium, with each being mentioned by 27% of the sample. Lindsey Vonn followed with 13%, with all other athletes named being mentioned by roughly 5% or less.

NBC gets a gold medal from viewers of the Olympic Games:

Over one-third (34%) of Olympic viewers surveyed reported that they had a higher interest in the 2010 Vancouver Games than they did for the 2006 Games in Torino (53% reported the same level of interest), and almost two-thirds (63%) gave NBC scores of 7-10 on a 1-10 scale of “Excellence” for overall coverage of the Games. The top scoring elements were “Level of advanced technology used to visually present the sports” (64% posting ratings of 7-10), followed by “Anchor host Bob Costas” (60%).

The USOC versus Scotty Lago: The jury of public opinion is split:

Snowboarder Scotty Lago, (whose picture was unceremoniously posted on the Internet allowing a young woman to kiss his bronze medal below his waist) was seen as given a bum deal by leaving the Olympic Games after the incident, with 51% indicating that the U.S. Olympic Committee over-reacted to the incident. 44% believed that the Olympic Committee took the appropriate actions, and 6% reported that the USOC was “Not harsh enough”.

About the Research Methodology:
Performance Research conducted this study online among a national random sample of American consumers provided by Survey Sampling International, aged 18-65, during each night of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. A total of 514 respondents were included in this study. All respondents were screened to have been watching the Olympic Games, either on television or online; The average number of nights watched at the time of interviews was 5.

The margin of error for this sample is no more than +4%.

About Performance Research:
Performance Research (Newport, Rhode Island) is the world’s leader in consumer research and evaluation for the sponsorship industry. Founded in 1985, the company has taken the leading role in understanding the marketing impact of sponsorship, as well as the phenomenon of emotional triggers and passion points among sports and arts enthusiasts.

This is the tenth continuous tracking study by Performance Research on Olympic sponsorship, with the first series beginning in 1992 (Albertville and Barcelona).

Performance Research’s consulting and evaluation work affects nearly $800 million worth of corporate sponsorship investments each year. Custom studies include on-site event surveys, telephone interviews, online surveys, and in-depth qualitative focus groups that explore the marketing impact of sponsorship / advertising from the consumer perspective.

About Survey Sampling International:
Survey Sampling International is the premier global provider of sampling solutions for survey research. SSI offers access to more than 6 million consumer and business-to-business research respondents in 72 countries via Internet, telephone, and mobile. Additional client services include custom profiling, survey programming and hosting, data processing, sampling consulting, and survey optimization.
SSI serves more than 1,800 clients worldwide, including 48 of the top 50 research organizations. Founded in 1977, SSI has an international staff of 400 people representing 50 countries and 36 languages. The company has 17 offices in 15 countries to locally support your global sampling needs.

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