What to Expect From the Olympic Games in Tokyo

July 22, 2021

[Header image credit: Canva]


After a year-long postponement and non-stop speculation on whether and how they would or should proceed…. the 2020 Olympic Games are finally underway in Tokyo. While some competition began yesterday, tomorrow’s Opening Ceremony is the big event we’ve all been waiting for. As the world expectantly turns its eyes (and screens) to Japan, our team of experts have compiled a quick overview of what to watch for and expect to see in this year’s Summer Games.


Expect to see more brands involved than ever. Olympic rules have changed around athlete-specific marketing to allow brands that are not official sponsors to have in-market ads featuring competing athletes, coaches, and officials. The postponement of the Games, due to COVID-19, gave brands more time to opt in and opportunistically created more appeal. There will also be more coverage than ever before. NBC has committed to an unprecedented 7,000 hours. The network’s streaming platform, Peacock, will play a major role in NBC’s programming strategy and offer alternative viewing options. We’ll also see more coverage for Paralympics.


This year’s Games will see the debut of several new sports and events – surfing, skateboarding, karate, sport climbing, and BMX freestyle, to name a few – all of which tend to skew towards a younger audience. Keep an eye out for Team USA in these events as they’re expected to be competitive in most, if not all, of the new sports. NBC is no doubt also hoping to pick up younger viewers through its partnership with Twitch. Shows including daily highlights, athlete interviews, and Olympic-themed gaming competitions with Twitch personalities will all be available to watch on the live streaming platform throughout the Games. This is the first time NBC is hosting Olympic content outside of its own network, but plan to see even more of this in Paris 2024 where esports are expected to be a demonstration event.


The average fan leading up to the Games likely only knows who NBC is promoting and who sponsors choose to have featured in their advertising campaigns. Here are some of the Olympians should you be watching.

These athletes are expected to dominate their sports for Team USA:

  • Simone Biles, Gymnastics
  • Simone Manuel, Swimming
  • Katie Ledecky, Swimming
  • Caleb Dressel, Swimming
  • April Ross/Alix Klineman, Beach Volleyball
  • Allyson Felix, Track & Field
  • Sydney McLaughlin, Track & Field
  • Maggie Steffens, Water Polo
  • Michael Andrew, Swimming

But don’t sleep on these Team USA athletes:

  • Cat Osterman, Softball (which is back in the Games, along with baseball, for the first time in 13 years)
  • Carissa Moore, Surfing
  • John Florence, Surfing
  • Nyjah Huston, Skateboarding
  • Mariah Duran, Skateboarding

Top Team USA Paralympians to Watch:

  • Jessica Long, Swimming
  • Melissa Stockwell, Triathlon

A lot of big-name athletes will also rep Team USA at the Olympics, but given the professional nature of their sport, they also have other stages to shine. Be on the lookout for the professionals in sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis, and golf.


Fans are just starting to watch most of these athletes, but our teams at TMA have been pounding the pavement, speaking with agents, interviewing athletes, and watching competitions over the past two years to get our own competitive edge and make the brands we work with look smarter by recommending athletes that not only make the Games, but elevate the athlete and the brand. With countless Olympic deals under their belts, dating back to the 2006 Torino Games, here are a few things of note our TMA teams are seeing this year.

  • More than ever, brands are demanding diversity in athletes they endorse and, in some cases, even for crew and agency partners.  
  • Brands are also demanding authenticity – marketability, potential to medal, and other standard criteria are still hugely important, but the first filter an athlete must pass is whether they are an actual consumer of the brand.  
  • There has also been a larger focus on Paralympians, and their powerful stories, than in we’ve seen in the past.  
  • What will be interesting to watch for is which athletes come out of this year’s Games with the “Olympic halo” and become strong contenders for future endorsement deals.  

Whatever happens during the Olympics, we know there are sure to be plenty of thrilling, heartwarming, and triumphant moments. And six short months later, the world will be watching Beijing host their first ever Winter Olympic Games. 

Contributors to this story: Basia Wojcik, Will Ober, Matt Fleming, Whitney DeMercurio