Nick Johnson is the SVP, National Sales, NBC Sports Digital. Nick has held management roles at media companies including CNN and Revenue Science. We recently spoke with Nick about his role and the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The Makegood: Nick, you have been working in media sales for about 20 years, at companies including CNN and Revenue Science. What element of media sales would you say has been the most interesting and that keeps you working in the space?
NJ: I joined CNNSI.com in 1997 after seven years on the agency side of the business. The thing that originally drew me to interactive and keeps me fired up and on my toes today is the constant rate of change and innovation that occurs in our business. At CNNSI.com, our biggest early challenges were building creative and disruptive ad units that capitalized on the influx of new eyeballs to our digital properties. Along the way, we had to learn about ad serving, campaign delivery, the first wave of rich media and the like.
Today, as we approach the London Olympics, we’re dealing with all sorts of innovation that wasn’t readily available during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Live streaming video of every event represents a huge new opportunity. Mobile has grown dramatically with the advent of smart phones. The tablet is an entirely new phenomenon for media consumption. The tidal wave of social media and the widespread adoption of social TV for both the consumer and advertisers are all new this go-around. So, the rate of change and competitive landscape keeps me energized every day and I’m thankful for my role in the ecosystem and specifically within the NBC Sports Group.
The Makegood: Can you tell us about your current role as the SVP, National Sales at NBC Sports Digital? What is the main focus for your team?
NJ: There are two key areas of focus for us. Number one, delivering deep, multi-dimensional campaigns that are both innovative and solutions oriented for our partners. Easier said than done, of course, given the rate of change. We’re fortunate to be working side by side with the TV sales force. It allows us to speak with one voice to the marketplace and to deliver true cross-platform solutions to the marketplace. The second focus: beat the number.
The Makegood: This is the first year that all of the Olympic events will be streamed live online in addition to primetime. What does this mean to the consumer and the advertiser?
NJ: Well, there’s no arguing that we live in an always on world in 2012. Our belief is that the Olympics fan is highly engaged, uniquely passionate and they want information in real time. By making all of our events live and in real time in an authenticated environment, it allows the Olympic fan access to the breadth of events available in the Summer Games and lets them watch events live as the history happens. Our model now satisfies immediacy for the avid fan that is compelled to watch live and the traditional fan who wants to consume the Games in primetime on NBC where we gather large audiences.
Anecdotally, in a socially tethered environment, we expect our best consumers to be our most vocal advocates. Those that have watched the events in real time will then turn to Facebook and Twitter to celebrate the outcomes. We believe, and have seen hard evidence in other parts of the organization, that social media can be a very strong factor in driving viewership and interest. We want our advocates to promote, implicitly, the events that will be airing on NBC on the 50-inch HD flat screen in primetime.
The Makegood: Given that technology has advanced significantly since the last Olympics, can you tell us about some other new digital elements that we can expect to see this summer?
NJ: Activating socially with fans, athletes and talent will be huge. We recently announced a Facebook partnership and we are reprising our successful Twitter Tracker tool that debuted in Vancouver. Content available everywhere and all the time for the Olympic fan will be unlocked via mobile and tablet. Access to all of our events live via the live feed will let us showcase deeply engaging video ad units, lengths, formats and editorial type to capitalize on unique break sizes and the specific messaging our advertisers are looking to bring to these Games.
The Makegood: We understand that you will be in London for the Games. What events are you especially looking forward to?
I’ll be headed to London for the last four or five days, so I’m particularly excited about the Closing Ceremony and watching the collection of athletes as they transition out of 2012 and head to 2016 in Rio. The Men’s Basketball Gold Medal game is also in my window, so I’m hopeful the U.S. will be competing and bringing it home.
The Makegood: Thanks, Nick.