The Olympics and the Long Tail
When you think about it, though, the Olympic Games are themselves a kind of Long Tail phenomenon.
There is no mass market for many of the constituent events -- synchronized diving, anyone? -- and even the glamorous stuff like swimming and sprinting doesn't draw big ratings in non-Olympic years.
The Olympics serve as an aggregator these obscure or overlooked sports. The constituent parts are marketed as something larger than their sum. The brands involved are powerful, including the name and iconic rings of the Olympics, the flags and anthems of the countries, and the star athletes (Michael Phelps, hero). There is the promise of familiar experiences, such as holding your breath while waiting for a pixie-like gymnast to fall, that beg to be watched with a crowd.
Meanwhile, the more familiar aspects of the Long Tail are in play as well. NBC is leveraging its mass-market, televised offering with a website that allows people to watch particular events at their discretion. And of course bloggers are free to discuss the games and the coverage for their own audiences, which may drive traffic back to NBC.