People have been watching live coverage of the Olympic Games on television since 1936 - and they’ve been watching live coverage of the Olympics online since 2006. But more people may watch live-streamed coverage of the #Rio2016 Olympic Games than they watch on television! Olympic live streams are one of the trends in the digital video marketing business that you’ll want to understand. Why? Well, even if you aren’t a video marketer at one of the most watched sport media, there are still lessons to learn.

Video Marketing & Tent-pole Events

Many video marketers have at least one tent-pole event they can build content around each year. Examples include “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, big movie releases like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or Halloween or April Fools’ Day jokes. Well, the Olympics provides some best practices worth adopting for B2B video marketers who use an industry trade show or conference as their annual tent-pole event. As you already know, tent-pole events drive search trends, editorial opportunities, audience interests, and advertiser campaigns. So, video marketers should create and publish content according to a programming calendar that starts days, weeks, or months before the tent-pole event kicks off.

For example, the Tubular Insights editorial team has tracked 82,400 videos that have been uploaded in the last 90 days for the Rio Olympics 2016. There were close to 4.6 million daily views on Facebook and 7.5 million daily views on YouTube as far back as Monday, May 8, 2016. That spiked to 44.7 million daily views on Facebook, 21.4 million daily views on YouTube, and 3.2 million daily views on Instagram on Friday, Aug. 5 – the opening night of the tent-pole event. So, you can see that there has been a huge opportunity for brands and creators to create content that viewers will tune into.

Most-watched 2016 Olympics Videos

The Gold medal video with the most views before the Rio Olympics began is “Samsung Official TVC: 'The Anthem' - Rio 2016 Olympic Games.” Uploaded on Thursday, July 21, it currently has 29.0 million views and 38,800 engagements.

The Silver medal video with second largest number of views before the games started is “Gillette: Perfect Isn’t Pretty | Rio 2016 Olympic Games | Sia Unstoppable.” Uploaded on Wednesday, July 13, it currently has 28.2 million views and 135,000 engagements.

And the Bronze medal video with the third largest number of views before the games got underway is “Katy Perry - Rise (NBC Olympics video).” Uploaded on Friday, July 15, it currently has 27.5 million views and 954,000 engagements.

Video Marketing Lessons: #Rio2016

So, what lessons can video marketers learn from watching the three videos with the most views before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games? Well, for starters, none of them are live streams. Now, it’s possible to live stream interviews of athletes, singers, or executives ahead of a tent-pole event. But, this type of video content rarely elicits the emotions that prompt people to share, say, an exhilarating music video or an inspiring brand video.

And, when it comes to getting people positively aroused about an upcoming tent-pole event, you can combine these two types of video. In fact, both NBC’s and Gillette’s videos are perfect examples of a category called “trackvertising”, which is a music video that clearly announces the collaboration between a brand and an artist in the video’s title or description. And Samsung’s video blurs the definition, because the artist isn’t identified in either the title or the description. Nevertheless, it looks like trackvertising and sounds like trackvertising, so let’s include it in an expanded definition of the category.

And this combination of music and visual content evokes feelings of exhilaration, which prompts people to share videos more than any other high arousal positive emotion, according to Dr. Karen Nelson-Field, the author of Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing. So, if video marketers are trying to move the needle on brand objectives such as awareness, perception, and interest, or they’re trying to “put butts in seats” BEFORE an upcoming tent-pole event, then they are more likely to make an impact with a well-edited trackvert than with live video streaming.

Video Marketing Secret Weapon: FOMO!

However, once the tent-pole event kicks off, the best practices and strategies change. Why? Because everything worth seeing is happening now, in real-time. And this triggers a new emotion: The Fear of missing out (FOMO). During a tent-pole event, many viewers experience anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. For example, I missed the moment on Saturday, Aug. 6, when Samir Ait Said, a French gymnast, broke his left leg at the knee after landing awkwardly during his vault routine. (Warning: graphic content, obviously).

Hey, the description in the schedule said, “Gymnastics, 1:30 P.M., Men’s qualifications: Subdivision 2. Men’s qualifications continue in the P.M. session with the teams in subdivision 2. Subdivision 2 consists of: Great Britain, France, Mixed Group 5 (Hungary, Vietnam, People's Republic of Korea, Italy), USA, Mixed Group 4 (Norway, Azerbaijan, Chinese Taipei, Armenia, New Zealand), and Germany.” Outside of a small group of men’s gymnastics fans in those 13 countries, who would want to watch a live stream of that?

But, after you’d seen posts about the luckless 26-year old sitting stoically on the mat while medical personnel examined his shin, which was at a 90-degree angle to his knee, who wouldn’t want to watch a live stream of that? Okay, maybe it was too late to hear the sound of Said’s tibula breaking and hear spectators gasp. But, you could have heard the prolonged ovation throughout the arena as the 26-year-old from France was borne off on a stretcher. And maybe, just maybe, you might have caught a glimpse of the Olympics staffers dropping his stretcher as they were loading Said into an ambulance.

Okay, that a whole different range of emotions than the psychological response generated by trackvertising. But, the agony of defeat is just as intense as the thrill of victory. And FOMO can compel people to check out the sideshows even at a three-ring circus. So, how do video marketers tap into this different dynamic during a tent-pole event? Well, NBCUniversal decided to provide an unprecedented 6,755 hours of programming for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. That's about 356 hours of coverage per day over 19 days. If the 6,755 hours of programming ran on one channel, it would take 281 days to finish airing.

But, only 260.5 hours of coverage will air on NBC. On a typical day, you can watch NBC’s coverage of the Olympics from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. ET during the daytime, from 8 p.m. – midnight ET during the evening, and from 12:35 a.m. – 1:35 a.m. ET late night. At the same time, the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will present 330 hours of Olympic programming. TELEMUNDO and NBC UNIVERSO, the home of the Olympics in Spanish in the United States, will present 273.5 hours of coverage. The Golf Channel will present 115 hours of the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Golf competition. USA Network returns to the Summer Games with 110.5 hours of programming from Rio. Bravo will televise 94.5 hours of live coverage of Olympic tennis. MSNBC will carry 78.5 hours of Rio Olympic programming, including coverage of men’s basketball, beach volleyball, rugby, soccer, volleyball, and water polo, among other sports. CNBC will provide 42 hours of Olympic coverage. That’s a lot of cable TV coverage. If you do the math, it adds up to 1,044 hours.

But, where can you find the rest of the coverage of this tent-pole event? Well, powered by Playmaker Media, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app is live streaming 4,500 total hours of Olympic competition. Yep, that’s all the events – wall-to-wall – including last Saturday’s Men’s Gymnastics qualifications at 1:30 P.M. As many as 40 live streams are available simultaneously. The only thing wasn’t streamed live was the opening ceremony, which was put online after an hour’s delay – to give NBC time to edit out some of the duller parts. NBC is also working with BuzzFeed and Snapchat to produce original content for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Meanwhile, up in Canada, the CBC will provide more than 4000 hours of live streaming, interactive medal standings, news, photos and more from Rio. And over in the UK, the BBC will be broadcasting up to 24 streams concurrently, with more than 3,000 hours of live coverage including 550 on BBC One and BBC Four.

So, what lessons can video marketers learn about tent-pole programming DURING an event? This is where mobile live streaming shines! Whether you have sent a team to cover the Olympics or an industry event like CES, arm them with a smartphone that can record video in 4K resolution (like the iPhone 6s, or Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, or S7) and an app with the mobile live streaming feature (like Periscope, Facebook, or YouTube). Hey, in order to capture unexpected moments that may matter, you’ve got to shoot first and ask questions later.

Finally, there will be some people who are interested in new content AFTER a tent-pole event is over. For example, highlight reels are very popular in sports. If you’ve covered an industry event, you can create a summary of the most important topics that were discussed or the new products that were introduced. And my old mentor, William B. Ziff, Jr., once told me that too much attention is paid to events and not enough to trends. And many times, these only emerge after a tent-pole event has ended. For instance, this video of Usain Bolt winning the 100m Gold at the 2012 London Olympics, uploaded to YouTube by the official Olympic channel generated 4.6M views in the first 90 days after publication, but has since attracted a further 13.6M views!

These post-event videos can tap into emotions, too. But, the most intense ones are proud as punch, deeply nostalgic, or in-the-know. Yes, we’re always trying to put major events into some sort of context. What’s the story that we’ll share with people who weren’t there, or tell to children and grandchildren who are too young to remember the moment? That’s generally something that a well-edited video can do much better than a live stream – although I’ve watched in enchantment when someone who has witnessed history retells their story in real time.

So, when it's all over, how many people will watch the Rio 2016 Olympic Games online? Well, comScore Video Metrix reported four years ago that there were 1.3 billion online video viewers of the London 2012 Olympics. Since then, Internet usage has risen by over a billion users. Mobile has risen even faster. And mobile now accounts for more than 50% of all video viewing worldwide. Taking all that into consideration, eMarketer estimates at least 1.5x growth in total video streams worldwide for the 2016 Rio Olympics. If you do the math, that works out to be about 2.85 billion total video streams worldwide for the 2016 Rio Olympics. That's bigger than a breadbox. And that's what makes this tent-pole event one that video marketers will want to keep their eyes on -- using the NBC Sports app on their smartphone. Hey, if anyone at work asks what you're doing, just tell them "research."