The Social Olympics

The 7/1/12 NY Times article: “Social Media Is the Message for Olympics” notes that the 2012 London Olympics will be the first Social Media Olympics, or “Socialypics”. Although Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook have been around for the 2008 summer and 2010 Winter Olympics, they are now integrated into society like never before. Since the 2008 Beijing games Facebook’s user base has expanded from 100mm users to approximately 900m, while Twitter has gone from 6mm to 150mm.

The Games’ organizers have happily accepted social media as a new platform to reach their global audience, which has drawn comparisons to modern politics and “social media elections”. The 2012 London Games has its own Twitter and Facebook pages, and has formed an Olympic Athletes’ Hub, which will help fans find athletes’ individual Twitter and Facebook pages.

The social media aspect of the 2012 games will help to publicize both athletes and events like never before. The official games Twitter and Facebook accounts can draw attention to relatively obscure events by updating and featuring them on their pages. In addition athletes have an opportunity to capitalize even further on their Olympic fame if they can gain a large social media following, which would increase their marketability and potential earning power.

Advertisers have taken up the Olympic Social Media campaign as well, specifically through YouTube advertisements. Proctor and Gamble has invested heavily in the platform as part of the broad “Thank You Mom” campaign. Their YouTube video, which details the behind the scenes role mothers play in Olympic athletes’ careers, started as a television commercial and has now been viewed over 25mm times on YouTube.

However, some Olympic sponsors are concerned that 3rd parties who have not paid to advertise during the Olympics will be able to do just that via social media. There are social media guidelines which prevent non-sponsors from posting certain word combinations. Spectators and athletes face restrictions on the type and content of their posts, especially if they include video. Athletes are allowed to post to Twitter and blogs, but the postings must be but the postings must be in a “first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist, “Video restrictions are driven by the television networks, who are concerned that their viewer base will be diluted free on demand internet videos.

The use of social media during the Olympics is a natural progression, in line with how other major public events have evolved over the past few years. It provides benefits in that advertisers and athletes have a much easier and quicker platform to reach their audience, who will now have access to certain aspects of the Games like never before. However there are some drawbacks, as athletes, spectators, and marketers will all now have the power to influence the public’s perception of the Games, which has been fiercely protected in the past.

Social media will be a part of the 2012 Games via spectators, athletes, and advertisers. The Olympic committee hopes to control how much of a part that will be. A task which will prove difficult, if not impossible.


One thought on “The Social Olympics

  1. I probably think the athletes and sponsors have been given guidelines by Olympic officials what they can say or not say that is related to the Olympic games. I’m sure there’s social media monitors that the Olympic committee will have to monitor what is being said.

    However, I do agree that it will be impossible to monitor everything. Let’s say there is a controversial call during the games that the judge missed and the team or individual athlete that was supposed to win the gold wins the silver instead. Someone tweets a youtube link showing the replay and states that the games are fixed or the winning team/athlete cheated. When the tweet/youtube video goes viral and you have enough supporters that becomes news in the media, that can’t be stopped. Will that viral power sway the Olympic committee like it has in past news events that causes an organization to do something? For now, I doubt it, but it would influence public opinion.

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