At the end of this week, the quadrennial Winter Olympics will begin taking place in Beijing, China. And while concerns over COVID seem to be less prominent as compared to the delayed Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year, this winter’s international festivities are overshadowed by other significant issues. 

According to previous CivicScience data, viewership of the Summer Olympics remained largely unchanged from 2016 to 2020 (2021).

However, the Winter Olympics may only be regressing back to 2014 levels.

This year in particular may be suffering from controversial recent news regarding the host country of China. In a separate survey asking people if they were any more or less likely to watch the Winter games this year, 16% of the Gen Pop is expressing a higher likelihood to watch than in previous years, but 53% is demonstrating the opposite.

The slight increase in potential viewership may be related to the overall rise in interest in professional sports among many Americans in the post-pandemic (or near post-pandemic) environment, or it may be a result of people continuing to be stuck indoors for a second winter as Omicron lingers and streaming services have run out of new content.

Either way, despite the overall malaise surrounding the Winter Olympics from the Gen Pop, the youngest demographics are largely driving the viewership base. Those over age 35, on the other hand are more or less tuning it out entirely. 

So while overall intent to watch the games has declined, the interest from the youngest viewers is likely good news for NBCUniversal, who owns the broadcast rights to the games. However, this trend may inherently create a complex situation for advertisers. 

As humanitarian issues continue to come to light in China, politics and social consciousness have taken hold of the Olympics, the US and a number of other countries have all enacted diplomatic boycotts of the games. 

And recent CivicScience data has shown that those youngest consumers who show the most interest in watching the games also care the most about brands taking a stand on important social and political issues. So while young people place a lot of importance on the social consciousness of the brands they consume, that isn’t stopping them from watching the Winter Olympics, indicating that brands need to walk a fine line with their messaging.

Moreover, those more likely to watch the games, regardless of age, overwhelmingly report that brands should always take a stand on important social and political issues. 

And perhaps most importantly, those who are most likely to watch the Olympics are also the most brand-conscious when shopping. 

All of which is to say, brands should look to be thoughtful with their ads during the Olympics this winter, a lot of wallets are paying attention.