Paralympics move to commercial TV a win for Seven and sponsors

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 29 September 2016

Seven’s first foray into the Paralympic Games has been buoyed by solid TV audience figures and unprecedented support from broadcast partners, in what is the first time both Olympic and Paralympic games have been shown on commercial television.

It was an important step for the Australian Paralympic Committee as it attempts to commericialise its operation by selling TV rights to a commercial broadcaster rather than partnering with the ABC as in previous games.

Seven ran its Paralympic Games coverage on 7Two as well as via digital channels, including the 7Live app. Throughout the two-week period, the games reached 4.4 million TV viewers, with the top session average audience of 225,000 (peak of 467,000) on the Day 7 highlights show. There were also 251,000 online streams.

Seven delivered 20% more hours of Paralympic action than the ABC’s London 2012 coverage and Seven West Media chief revenue officer Kurt Burnette tells AdNews the Paralympics has given 7Two a lift compared to normal programming.

“If you think where the Paralympics are on previous timeslots, on 16-39 it’s 22% up on ratings, for 25-54 it’s 8% up and for viewers in the higher socio-economic occupation category, it’s also a bit higher,” he says.

“[The audience figures] have met our expectations and some of the growth numbers have even exceeded them. We always thought with the number of hours we’re showing and the way we have put it to air, the live streaming and the social aspects we’re delivering…we would get the level of support that we currently have.”

While ratings figures are in line with expectations, they aren't high enough to run extensive Paralympic Games coverage on Seven's main channel. However, this may well change in the future as the growth of support globally continues to build.

The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games attracted a cumulative global TV audience of just 300,000. This jumped to 1.7 billion for Athens in 2004, soared to around 3.8 billion in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and broke 4 billion for Rio.

Seven bought the broadcast rights to the Rio Paralympic Games from the Australian Paralympic Committee, which itself had acquired rights to Sochi and Rio for less than $400,000. Previously the APC would cover the cost of rights and the ABC would broadcast the games, which worked fine but didn’t allow the games to grow commercially.

Brands warm to Paralympics

Securing the rights to both the Olympics and Paralympics has allowed Seven to sell both as a package, which Burnette says has been taken up by just about all Olympic broadcast partners, including Telstra, Optus, Woolworths, Swisse, McDonald’s, Toyota, Samsung and Harvey Norman.

Some brands, such as Optus, Samsung, Visa, Swisse, Woolworths and Toyota, have invested in specific creative for the Paralympics (see below), which Burnette says speaks volumes about how much respect brands pay to the Paralympic Games.

“There’s very much a community feeling about it and this idea of making the impossible possible and see extraordinary human feats,” Burnette says.

“Not everyone had creative that was specific, but what we’ve already seen is that if you have specific creative it resonates very well and has better cut through and a relevance point.”

Optus has taken out a 10-year partnership with the Australian Paralympic Committee. The telco tells AdNews sponsorship ha added significance as Optus Business employee Matt Formston competed at the Rio Paralympic Games in cycling and acted as an official ambassador internally and externally.

“His dedication to pursuing sporting excellence demonstrates the ‘relentless improvement’ values that Optus strives for across the business, and we are proud to be the support network of Matt and his Paralympic teammates,” a spokesperson says.

Leading into the games, Optus ran marketing campaigns with its Olympic and Paralympic athletes across social, digital and out of home placements. This included ads on its new Optus Sport digital channels as well as spots on 7Two with a TVC featuring Formston.

“A key objective of the partnerships with the AOC and APC was to create a campaign that would reach people across a range of channels, from TV to social, and through traditional media placements,” a spokesperson adds.

Optus’ #FanUpAus social media campaign ran across the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and encouraged Australian fans to demonstrate their support for the teams by submitting photo and video content using the designated hashtag.

There was also a #High5 a Paralympian, encouraging Australians to donate support to the team featuring several Paralympic stars including Ahmed Kelly (Swimming), Ellie Cole (Swimming), Richard Colman (Athletics), Emma Booth (Equestrian) and Shawn Russell (Wheelchair Basketball). 

Optus Paralympics 2016

Public support and commercial interest in the Paralympic Games is growing, but it still trails, by some distance, its (unrelated) cousin the Olympics Games.

The Australian government, via the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and AIS, invested $64 million in Paralympic sports over the past four years, helping prepare a team of 178 athletes for the games.

This is nearly 16% of the ASC’s Winning Edge funding strategy that covers both the Olympic and Paralympic programs, and above the 10.7% allocated to Paralympic sports in the cycle leading to London 2012.

However, the omens for the future are bright. Seven’s backing of the sport makes it a more appealing commercial prospect and brands are flocking to back the team, and it’s not hard to see why.

The Olympic Games are about pushing the boundaries of human endeavour, the Paralympics are different – they’re about overcoming perceived boundaries to human endeavour before pushing performance to inspiring new heights.

It’s a powerful, aspirational message for any brand to be aligned to.

For those who don’t have an appetite or budget for Olympics-sized sponsorship, this could prove an inspired alternative and help some of the nation’s most driven athletes to continue on making the impossible, possible.

Other powerful Paralympic ads

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