Audience Insights: Taking Part in Olympics is an Advertising Win

08.24.2021 David Gustafson

The late Pierre de Coubertin, founder and second president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), had a relatively simple outlook on the world’s quadrennial quest for athletic accolades. “The most important thing in the Olympic Games,” he asserted, “is not winning but taking part.”

Notwithstanding some well-publicized squabbling over medal counts during the recently completed Summer Games, Pierre de Coubertin may indeed have been on to something – particularly for local marketers who joined the likes of national powerhouses Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Google, Samsung, and Coca-Cola by advertising during Olympic TV coverage, taking advantage of the prolonged opportunity for positive brand association in a feel-good programming environment.

Whether your business participated in Tokyo 2020 or decided to take a different path, we hope you enjoy our quick look at three medal-worthy observations from this year’s pandemic-delayed event:


While many marketers think of televised sports as a strategy for reaching male viewers, the Olympics deliver a unique combination of competition, drama, passion, and patriotism that has an almost universal appeal. Based on Cox Media analysis of Nielsen national data for this year’s Olympic telecasts across Cable and Broadcast networks, the average audience composition was 49.6% male and 50.4% female.(1)


Based on Cox Media analysis of Nielsen national data, the age distribution among Olympics viewers differed when comparing Broadcast and Cable coverage. From the Broadcast perspective, an estimated 28.5% of NBC’s overall Olympic audience fell in the much-coveted 18-49 age range. On the Cable side, 32% of the combined Olympic audience on CNBC, Golf Channel, NBC Sports, and USA fell within the 18-49 demographic – an increase of more than 12% vs. NBC’s average. The median age for Cable Olympic viewers was 56, two years below NBC’s median age of 58.(2)


Cable’s combined Olympic audience across CNBC, Golf Channel, NBC Sports, and USA earned an estimated median household income of nearly $86,000 per year, according to Cox Media analysis of Nielsen national data. The Cable figure is more than $10,500 above the Broadcast average from NBC’s Olympic coverage. For perspective, that increased Cable income is enough to purchase 13 Olympic gold medals at current market value.(3)

Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history and arguably the most scrutinized competitor in this year’s Olympic Games, has been attributed with a perspective similar to that of Pierre de Coubertin. “At the end of the day,” Biles said, “if I can say I had fun, it was a good day.”

Tokyo 2020 is now officially in the rearview mirror, but local advertisers can still find plenty of fun Cable programming opportunities throughout the remainder of 2021. As the summer sports season turns to fall, College Football and the NFL return – along with Major League Baseball playoff action, basketball, hockey, and much more. Off the field, Cable continues to attract diverse demographics with a variety of original series and special events, some of which are highlighted in our September preview.  

Our Audience Insights series will be back next month with more observations. Until then, stay tuned to for helpful advertising tips and additional insights.


1. Cox Media analysis of Nielsen telecast data via NPOWER; Total U.S.; Live+SD; filtered for Olympics programming airing 7/23/2021-8/8/2021; average viewers by demographic across all time periods.
2. Cox Media analysis of Nielsen telecast data via NPOWER; Total U.S.; Live+SD; filtered for Olympics programming airing 7/23/2021-8/8/2021; median age based on P2+ viewers.
3. Cox Media analysis of Nielsen telecast data via NPOWER; Total U.S.; Live+SD; filtered for Olympics programming airing 7/23/2021-8/8/2021; estimated median income based on P2+ viewers.

About the Author

David Gustafson

As Cox Media’s Director of Linear & Audience Research, David plays a key role in the company’s usage and interpretation of TV audience data. With more than two decades of industry experience, David currently is a member of the Nielsen Local Policy Guidelines Committee (PGC) and VAB Measurement Innovation Task Force, as well as client advisor to Comscore. Known as “The Professor,” David’s articles combine his passion for writing with a penchant for concisely explaining complex topics.

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