It can’t have failed to notice that in less than 100 days, London will host the 2012 Olympics.
Let’s face it, you really can’t escape it. It’s plastered all over the news, and is getting wall-to-wall coverage on the web and in the papers. The Olympics is the biggest show on earth, with an estimated worldwide audience that runs into billions. Is it any wonder that businesses want a slice of the action, and want to piggyback the event with some blatant brand promotion? Now there’s nothing new in that: sponsorship has gone on in previous games and will continue so long as there’s an audience to convert. But this time it’s going to be different. The 2012 games looks set to be the social media Olympics. London 2012 (if we’re still allowed to say that without fear of legal action) might be the pinnacle for athletes and competitors striving for medals, but the real winners during these games will be big business like McDonalds and Coca Cola and the IOC itself.
So hang on to your hats and get set for a summer of feverish brand promotional activity.
But why’s it different this time round? Well, if you cast your mind back 4 years to Beijing, 2008, then you’ll probably remember that social media and the use of social media marketing was in its infancy. Paid media was all the rage. Facebook was alive and well, but only had approximately 145 million users. Twitter and Google+ were just a distant dream. Fast forward 4 years and the world is social media crazy. Facebook has over 800 million users; Twitter is reported to have 175 million registered users and even the new kid on the blog, Google+, can now boast an audience of a reported 170 million. Whether these figures are factually correct is academic. What really matters is that the world and his wife have bought into the social media, and businesses are set to exploit this as best they can. Frankly, who can blame them?
The phenomenal growth in mobile usage has also increased the presence of the social media.
People can now access information at any time, and check the latest offers and look for goods and services wherever they are whenever they want. That also applies to the spectators at the games themselves. This global audience is there for the taking. More and more of the big businesses sponsoring the games are set to use location-based targeting for their communications, as well as offers for those who ‘check in, to their sites.
It’s not just businesses getting in on the act either: even the International Olympic Committee is hoping to jump on the back of this social buzz. The IOC is set to launch its own social portal, or social hub, where users can connect with and talk to their favourite athletes. The head of social media for the IOC, Alex Huot, told the Telegraph newspaper:
“The Olympic Athlete’s Hub was born out of our desire to connect Olympic athletes and their fans more intimately than ever before. With the launch of the Hub, we are creating a paradigm shift in the communication around the Olympic Games, and we are excited to offer this opportunity for greater engagement and interaction between Olympians and their fans.”
Now you may wonder why it is doing this, but it all makes perfect sense when you think about it.
It’s all about publicity and building a community. Users can get inside information from athletes past and present and download training tips and regimes, whilst the IOC is able to build its brand whilst controlling the information that is made available. Whether the athletes will want to play ball is another matter, given that they are under strict instructions to restrict their personal use of social channels.