Marketing experts share lessons learned from social media's star turn at the 2012 Games
Editor's Note: This is the first entry in our monthly series titled "Water Cooler Talk," where we ask leaders in digital advertising to give us their take on current industry issues.
Forget Missy, Gabby, Michael and Usain---the biggest star of the 2012 London Games was social media, with hordes of fans, brands and athletes swarming the social channels. Here are two reasons why media pundits dubbed these Games the "Social Media Olympics":
- More tweets during the London Games' opening ceremony than the entire 2008 Beijing Games (factor Twitter's huge growth from 6 million users then to 500 million today into that stat).
- 28.4 million Olympic-themed tweets in just the first 10 days of the Games, according to Mass Relevance—for an average of 2,000 tweets a minute.
The 2012 Games were a coming-out party for social media, flexing new-found strength in a worldwide event—so how does that impact digital marketing and advertising? That's what we asked some experts from agencies across the country.
"Social media is real-time, fluid, and dynamic, and brands realize this when developing campaigns built around the Olympics. Likewise, building a campaign around a specific athlete can often be a huge gamble if that athlete gets injured or turns in a poor performance. Brands must plan for the unexpected and be able to adjust their tactics on the fly.
"Social media has allowed fans to get close and personal with athletes in a real-time manner. But in reality, the athletes are in full-on brand building mode for their personal brands. For brands, most of their Olympic efforts will be happening post-Olympics, once the medals have been handed out and brands clamor to associate themselves with those who stood out in London."
Eli Singer, President and Founder, Entrinsic:
"What has surprised me about this year's Games is how concentrated the coverage was in traditional media. We didn't really see much citizen media cross the chasm into the mainstream and then 'go viral.' This is partially a result of the rigid management of the Olympics brand, athlete conversations and rights management by broadcast networks. I think this unfortunately has resulted in the loss of some of the character and spontaneity of the Games.
"Brands should consider how their own management of their social voice can stifle some of the community aspects of enjoying events. As well, better community engagement planning can help grow the conversation for everyone and create an amplification effect for the brand."
Scott MacLeod, Director of Analytics and Insights, The VIA Agency:
"Start 'drafting.' Nike has a history of 'drafting on' existing behaviors and events (Olympics, World Cup), borrowing interest and attention rather than paying to become official sponsors. This strategy looks even more powerful as social media has increased in popularity. Nike has capitalized on this behavior by creating exceptional, spreadable content that people want to find, see and share. Most importantly, they've accelerated this by using Twitter and related hash tags (#findyourgreatness) to make it clear that the greatness in the Olympics is something everyone can share in.
"That recognition has struck a chord and upended official sponsors like Adidas, who paid millions for their exposure. According to BrandWatch, Nike has generated 14x stronger Olympics conversation volume than Adidas."
Todd Labeau, VP, Director of Interactive, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs (LSB):
"These Olympics remind us of social media's power to ignite a conversation around a brand, whether you're a part of it or not. When launching or jumpstarting a brand, it is especially important to not only establish your core brand values at the outset, but to also listen to and participate in the conversations taking place around your brand. Just look at gold medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas, who overnight became a world champion, a Kellogg's spokesperson, and a hair conversation. These Olympics have taught us that it's human nature to want to be in on a conversation---facilitate it, embrace it, be a part of it. You can't stop it from happening."
Martin Olsson-Prescott, Senior Social Media Strategist, Tribal DDB:
"Social media has made the Olympics more accessible than ever. Twitter has become the main channel for everything Olympics---from celebrations, to sharing results to protests. But not everyone is pleased with the social boom. The IOC wrote a new rule preventing athletes from mentioning brands to their social followers; that caught many brands and athletes off-guard. Instead of viewing the restrictions as a hurdle, marketers can see it as an opportunity to grow a wider, more positive fan base. To avoid the restriction, marketers could look for ways to tap into audiences as brand advocates over superstar athletes, or create cutting-edge social media initiatives like an AR campaign that could engage people at the event as well as viewers at home."
Bryan Rowles, Partner/Executive Creative Director, 72andSunny, Amsterdam:
"What brands can learn from the Social Olympics or from the Olympics in general, is how much people love to embrace something good and positive in the world. There's such a huge level of optimism, a lack of cynicism, and a root-for-everyone mentality around the Games themselves. Not to mention how innovative and modern the Games have become in the social landscape. It would be nice to keep that going."