Olympics Summer Games 2012
The 2012 Olympics, or “The Social Games” as it has been dubbed, are fully underway.
This year’s social media landscape registers 900 million Facebook users, and 500 million twitter users. This is up from the 2008 summer games, with numbers as low as 100 million users on Facebook, and a mere 6 million for Twitter.
The implications are enormous. Social Media will account for roughly half of Olympic impressions, up from 10% in 2010, according to a Procter & Gamble estimate.
So from a marketer’s perspective, this year’s Olympic Games are a social media event. Corporate sponsors are utilizing social media to build brand recognition. With so much effort being invested in this form of advertisement, the big question is: does it pay off?
For some companies.
It is true that the usage of social media has grown exponentially in the past years. Of the adults in the US who go online, 87% have used some form of social media in 2012 (up from 63% in 2007). But according to Nate Elliot, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, this media usage isn’t always paying off. In an article on CIOToday.com, Nate states that “people use social media to connect with each other. They don’t use it much to connect with brands.
Sponsors must be strategic in their social media leverage, in order to produce the desired results, if any at all. This degree of strategy and planning has separated the cream of the crop from the batch of rookies.
The 11 biggest corporate sponsors have spent nearly $1 billion for the rights to feature the Olympic seal during the 2012 summer games (as well as the past 2010’s winter games). Big players such as Coca Cola, General Electric, and Visa are running creative social media campaigns to solicit audience interaction.
Coke has set their campaign to music. The company encourages followers to create and share music videos. They have also introduced a “create your own beat” campaign, allowing for followers to submit melody’s created from a Coke online music program.
General Electric is using their social media to encourage followers to improve health. They have created a Facebook app called HealthyShare, where users can share health tips.
Visa asks their followers to post elaborate cheers for the athletes that they support. The best clips are promised a spot in Visa’s Olympic video advertisements.
These particular campaigns work because they create a community that follower’s feel they are a part of. The Olympic audience can feel that they are truly a part of the games, rather than mere spectators.
“In Beijing, we recognized the athletes, but this year, we’re inviting consumers to do that instead,” says Kevin Burke, chief marketing officer of core products at Visa. “Everything we do will be put through the social-media filter.”
Another positive aspect of social media is the instantaneous nature of feedback.
Users can complain/make suggestions via social media in real-time. NBC learned this lesson when complaints about their Olympic coverage began flooding in by the thousands. The networks quickly setup a Twitter hashtag (#nbcfail) to keep track of the tide.
NBC executives can take the criticism into stride and make attempts to fix them. This allows the networks to better suit the needs of the audience.
However, some are affected negatively by the social media perforation of the Olympic Games.
In accordance with Olympic Rule 40, athletes are banned from posting pictures thanking their sponsors. This strict guideline was set down by organizers with the intent of protecting the Games against “ambush marketing”. The idea is that only official sponsors can be recognized.
Any athlete who breaks the rule can be fined, have their accreditation stripped, or even disqualified. The rebellion against this social media clampdown is understandable. Half of the country’s top ten athletes barely earn $15,000 per year from sports. The biggest backlash is from the top US track and field athletes, who don’t receive Government grants towards training. They rely on income from sponsors to keep them in the game.
It is without a doubt that social media has become a staple of the Olympic Games. Companies must make better use of technology to build their brands to the Game’s attendees. Otherwise, they could lose out on the billions of dollars in revenue that the Olympics generate. The key is to engage the audience, and inspire consumer interaction. That’s the only way to take the gold in the Social Games!