The big winner of the Rio Olympics: Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola takes the gold.
Coca-Cola takes the gold.
Image: Coca-Cola
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Coca-Cola, the longest continuous sponsor of the Olympics, has learned a thing or two about how to make its commercials stand out. And those lessons paid off in Rio.

The Atlanta, Georgia-based beverage brand aired the best performing TV ads among US viewers during the 2016 summer games, a study by Google showed.

Google used surveys and search data to analyze the top 12 most advertised brands during NBC’s broadcasts of the games. About 700 people in the US were surveyed to see which ads they remembered and whether those ads generated interest in the brands advertised or changed perceptions. It also looked at Google searches related to the ads during the Olympics broadcasts.

Coca-Cola’s Olympic ad campaign, “That’s gold,” was the strongest overall performer, Google found. The campaign, which melded gold medal-worthy Olympic moments with everyday life, scored well in each of the fields Google evaluated.

While Coca-Cola took the all-around gold, Americans surveyed said Nike ran the most memorable ads. The athletic apparel brand aired an ad series called “Unlimited” that starred elite athletes and groundbreaking competitors including the first transgender athlete on a US national team and the first quadruple amputee to climb Mount Kilimanjaro without prosthetics. Nearly 35% of respondents—the most for any brand studied—recalled seeing the ads.

Coca-Cola was a close second with nearly 33% of respondents recalling the ads it aired during NBC’s TV broadcasts. Tide took earned the bronze medal in generating awareness for its brand with an ad starring gymnast Simone Biles.

Some TV ads also drove viewers to search Google for brands, products, or other topics related to the commercials they saw. Car maker BMW, which ran commercials for a few products including a racing wheelchair used by the US Paralympics Track and Field Team, was searched 3.2 times more than the average of the 12 brands studied, Google found.

Viewers searched for topics related to Coca-Cola twice as much as others during the Olympics broadcast. McDonald’s, another longtime Olympic partner, which pushed its newly reformulated chicken McNuggets in its Olympics campaign, drove 1.5 times more TV-ad related searches than the average, the study found.

Nielsen TV ratings may have fallen sharply for NBC during the Rio games compared to the 2012 London event, but advertisers still made their mark. US viewers who saw TV ads by any of the 12 brands studied during the games felt 25% more favorably toward the brand, on average, and were 28% more likely to find out more or purchase the product, Google’s surveys showed.