Rio 2016 has drawn to a close. The Olympics have once again been dominated by USA, with Team GB surpassing expectations by finishing second in the medal table, closely followed by China. For all nations, there have been surprises of the good and bad variety, and successes and failures.

The anticipated buzz around the Zika virus turned out to be minimal, and other than a few minor hitches in the days leading up to the event, the infrastructure stood strong and left little evidence of a failing economy. While crime and terrorism was present, it by no means overshadowed the sporting action conversation on social media.

But how did the sponsoring companies and brands fare in the crowded field of Olympic sponsorship? I once again took to the Synthesio Olympics dashboard, examining social data to find out which brands are winners, and who are the losers.

rio 2016 share of voice





Samsung dominated with 45% of online conversation, captivating audiences with two completely different television advertisement concepts. Comedian Jack Whitehall, and cyclist Bradley Wiggins starred in a comical ad using the hashtag #schoolofrio, which generated a huge amount of positive buzz.


rio 2016 samsung uk

The brand also launched a global television campaign, ‘The Anthem,’ starring six athletes of different nationalities. It focussed on the idea of “one world, one anthem,” which certainly pulled on the heartstrings of many of its audiences.

To commemorate the Games, Samsung launched a special edition of their S7 Edge model which embodied the colours of the Olympic rings and an Olympic theme throughout. They handed the S7 to 11,200 athletes, only for the North Korea athletes to have them confiscated by their head coaches. This was to prevent them having contact with ‘the outside world.’

rio 2016 samsung galaxy
It was particularly evident in the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony, when it was clear that the North Korean’s were the only athletes not to be using them.



Coca Cola


Coca Cola continued their long running relationship with the Olympic Games with their #thatsgold campaign. There was an action packed television commercial starring many famous sporting faces. This was centred around the jubilation of winning an Olympic gold medal, accomplishing something great, and everyday happiness. This feeling was described as ‘gold’ – and that you could ‘taste the feeling’ by drinking Coca Cola.
As in 2012, Coca Cola rolled out their Olympic style bottles and cans for fans to commemorate the event, and heavily sponsored the Rio 2016 Olympic Torch Relay. They had a presence at the events that were held at each city across Brazil, where visitors were able to purchase Coca-Cola in a gold aluminium bottle, have photos with the torch, and celebrate Coca Cola’s history with the Games.
However, their sponsors of the Rio 2016 Olympics has always been criticised by some, as they feel that the unhealthy nature of the drink does not reflect the legacy that the Olympics tries to create.

rio 2016 coca cola

There are cries for a look at the ethical nature of the major sponsorships that have been handed out to Coca Cola and McDonald’s. Celebrity chef and advocate for healthy eating, Jamie Oliver, has said we wants to stop the likes of these companies sponsoring the Olympics. Analogies include that this is like a “cigarette brand sponsoring a cancer charity.”
The hashtags #riobesity and #rethinksugarydrink were amongst the top 20 hashtags associated with sponsorship, so clearly these opposing views are becoming increasingly prominent. Although thus far, the Olympic organisation have not altered their stance on any of their sponsors or partners.




Although they faced the same controversial issues as Coca Cola, McDonald’s had another successful year sponsoring the Olympics. With #friendswin, they gave 100 children from around the world the chance to join in the Opening Ceremony – with a focus on unity and cross-cultural understanding.

rio 2016 mcdonalds opening ceremony

There was a McDonald’s restaurant in the Olympic Village which beforehand people were questioning what kind of athletes would go in there. But they were proved very wrong. The reasons for the massive queues often tailing out on to the streets was described by one athlete as being able to “feel comfortable and happy eating. You get to relax, and slow down a bit.”

One Australian badminton player took on a McDonald’s binge after losing out on a medal, clocking 9,300 calories. After months of clean eating, he declared it was time to eat junk food and relax. This gave McDonald’s a lot of publicity, influencing others to take on similar challenges as a result – although mostly failing.





Visa dominated early conversation by announcing a wearable tech solution – a communication based payment ring that associates with a user’s debit/credit card. This will mean that people will no longer have to carry around wallets and will be able to pay with a fist pump on a contactless card machine.

rio 2016 visa olympics

This was demoed to a select group of athletes who Visa thought would particularly benefit from them, this being because they often change clothing and also may not want to risk carrying valuables in the dangerous Rio environment. Plans to launch it to the public are in the pipeline.

Along with that, they have created #teamvisa, which comprises of athletes who they specially support across a wide range of nationalities and sports. This year they added members of the Refugee National Team, which the public endeared to due to the nature of their stories and fight to become successful.

rio 2016 visa

There are a plethora of other sponsoring companies, most notably Omega and Nissan, and others who have failed to break through and make a commanding presence in what has been a very crowded market with many brands trying to get their voices heard.

However there has been minimal negative conversation surrounding sponsorship as a whole, proving that if you have the funds, the Rio 2016 Olympic sponsors were very worthwhile.


Want to know how Synthesio’s Social Listening platform was about to pull data about the Rio 2016 Olympics? Request a demo below to see if it can help your brand or agency.