5 Lessons From #London2012

The Olympic Games in London were, I think most people would agree, a pretty stunning success. From the amazing opening ceremony, to the record haul of medals for the home team, it all went brilliantly.

It was also, according to many, the first social media Olympics and so, as we pack away the memories of a fortnight of sporting excellence, let’s see what marketing lessons we can take away.

1. Free speech comes at a price. Twitter has often spoken very proudly about being “the free speech wing of the free speech party” and has an enviable record of resisting efforts by governments and legislators to get access to its users’ data.

But when a British journalist started ranting about NBC’s coverage of the opening ceremony, someone at Twitter contacted NBC and prompted them to report one of the tweets. This then saw the account being frozen and an entirely foreseeable backlash.

Twitter had just announced a commercial tie-up with NBC prior to the start of the games and this particular PR fail goes to show how difficult it will be for a company that allows people to express their every thought, no matter how inappropriate and unpleasant those may be, to keep commercial partners happy.

[Editor's Note: Twitter itself denied that the account was suspended to please NBC and curtail speech but rather because the account holder, Guy Adams, tweeted an email believed to be private.

Twitter did admit that someone on its partnership side suggested that NBC might report this issue, which it apologized for. Our previous post, Twitter Apologizes, Admits One Department Helped NBC Get Journalist’s Account Suspended, explains this more].

2. Dual-screening has gone mainstream.  The idea that people will interact with the web at the same time as watching TV is hardly a new idea (the first time I wrote about it for Search Engine Land was back in 2009 and I wasn’t saying anything others hadn’t already).

But with smartphones shipments now outstripping those of PCs almost two-fold, dual-screening has gone from something that is talked about at conferences to something real people are actually doing. Data released by Google show massive spikes in search traffic, particularly on tablets and smartphones, at times when people were watching the games. This is a really interesting trend and one that marketers need to exploit, although the fact that large numbers of people don’t appear to know who Paul McCartney is, is slightly worrying.

3. You don’t have to be in it to win it. One of the main criticisms in the run up to the games was that it was overly commercial. And considering that sponsors pay tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to be associated with the Olympics, it’s no surprise.

But, once again, Nike showed that you can capture the spirit of an event, and start conversations, without being an official sponsor. I might be a little biased as they’re a client, but I think it’s safe to say that Nike’s amazing content and its strategic use of paid media was a textbook example of how to integrate paid, owned and earned media.

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4. There should be medals for self-promotion. A lot of the athletes taking part in the Games have seen surges in their social profiles, some by almost 4,000%. And just in case he didn’t win a medal (he did), Irish boxer Paddy Barnes actually plugged his Twitter profile during the Opening Ceremony in a cheeky attempt to gain sponsorship. Hopefully a few brands were listening.

5. Time is money. The criticism that NBC was getting was due to its delayed and edited coverage. Due to the fact that audiences, and therefore ad revenues, tend to be greater during prime-time, NBC delayed a lot of the footage.

But in the days of Twitter, Facebook & YouTube, that’s going to be hard to keep doing. If people allready know, via Twitter, that Mo Farah has just got his second gold, or that Usain Bolt is still the 100m champion, are they likely to want to watch it two hours later?

Thankfully for NBC the next Olympics will be in Rio, which is only an hour ahead of the East coast. But when you look at how people consumed these games, on multiple screens and multiple platforms, I’d be willing to gamble that one of the big winners at Rio will be someone like Google, as I’d imagine they’d love to have a go at taking NBC’s coverage away and putting it all on YouTube.

And that would be even more of a shake-up than Britain turning out to be good at sport and a bit rubbish at music.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is the Chief Digital Officer for Mindshare Australia, where he is responsible for the overall digital output of the agency, including ensuring that search, social, mobile and video are integrated into the broader marketing mix. He has worked in online marketing since 2000 at a number of publishers and agencies.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    “Nike showed that you can capture the spirit of an event, and start conversations, without being an official sponsor.”

    I think Nike has a little bit of an advantage, considering what a huge,
    global brand they are, but it’s a good lesson to learn. Your brand can
    get involved in an event without actually being involved. It’s about
    making yourself part of the conversation.


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