Breaking Down #London2012


With #London2012 behind us, I thought it would be a good time to talk about social media and the Olympic Games.

Twitter Wins Gold

First off, for all the talk of “social media”, the only platform that anybody was talking about or using was Twitter. There are, of course, Facebook Pages (London 2012 and the Official Olympics Facebook Page) with millions of followers, and apparently decent levels of engagement. But it was Twitter that made “the news” – there are a couple of reasons for this as I see it.

  • Facebook engagement is structured on “Post and Comment/Like”, where the brand initiates most of the dialogue. Twitter is far more democratic in its structure and “initiation” is not as important as inclusion via hashtags.
  • Twitter is much better at mobile than Facebook. Facebook’s mobile app is weak making it less useful to consume and also share content as it happens. Twitter is excellent for handling real-time events and information. And to be clear – when I say “mobile” I don’t mean that people are out on the go (though many are) or attending the Games in person, but that users are watching the events on TV, and then tweeting about it in real-time. Mobile is really a handheld, portable device, like a smart phone or tablet.
  • Athletes themselves took to Twitter, tweeting about their experience

This should be a clear warning sign for Facebook. The world largest collective event just took place in the Olympics, and the world’s largest social network did not make the podium.


The topic of mobile and real-time also came to a head on the issue of “tape delay” of broadcasting the events on NBC. Since Twitter is completely plugged into real-time, many fans in the USA were dismayed to see the results of events long before they were broadcast on TV. This resulted in a huge uproar on Twitter encompassed in the hashtag, #NBCFail.

There are some interesting points of convergence here. First off, there was an Olympic Partnership with NBC and Twitter going into the Games. A British reporter, Guy Adams, who was frustrated with the NBC tape delay of the Games, tweeted the email address of the head of NBC Olympics, Gary Zenkel. Strangely enough, when NBC was notified by Twitter about the tweet – which allegedly violated its guidelines and best practices – Twitter employees recommended to NBC to report this violation against their own company. A hot mess, to be sure.

Huge volumes of tweets emerged from #NBCFail, with users complaining about not being able to see the Games in real-time and being beset by spoilers across Twitter before getting the chance to see the events on TV. NBC countered by stating that the Games coverage was receiving extremely strong ratings; that it didn’t matter. I see two take aways from this:

  1. The Games reaches an audience far beyond Twitter, and the typical sports fan in the USA. Viewers watch not only to see their athletes compete, but it’s also the story lines and national pride that draws them. The ratings proved this.
  2. Tape delay just doesn’t work anymore. It’s an older model that doesn’t fit with the current reality. The world is completely plugged in now. Real time coverage, with prime time recaps/highlights is the only way to go.

More Followers = Better Endorsements

Gabby Douglas was not a household name going into the Games ,but she held a very respectable Twitter following of 37,000+. Not long after her Gold medal performances, she reached 600,000+ followers. Usain Bolt, already an international superstar, entered the Games with 600,000+ followers and left with over 1 million.

It goes without saying that stronger follower counts will only improve endorsement opportunities. But I’m going to tie this back to Twitter as the preferred platform of engagement. Why are athletes taking to Twitter and not Facebook?

  1. Ease of use/interface with a mobile or handheld device.
  2. Capping tweets at 140 characters keeps it short and sweet
  3. Facebook imposes a 5000 friend limit (well there are subscribers, but that’s a different story), and Twitter has no such cap

London 2012 was billed as the first “truly social” Olympics. I think that’s a bit much, but it is true that social media is well-integrated into the day-to-day of many, many people today and that will only increase.

For me, the real story behind the headlines was Twitter’s place as a platform, beyond boarders and broadcast – and beyond Facebook as well.


Olympics in China – Are Corporate Sponsors Concerned about their Brand?


The Olympics is about as big as it gets for corporate sponsorship.

And this week has seen some interesting events in the form of protests that accompany the Olympic Torch relay. Amid requests from world leaders to boycott some elements of the event, are corporate sponsors worried about associating their brand with all that is going on?

Despite the market potential that China represents and the visibility that the Olympics brings across many industries, I would think there is a growing concern about positioning here. If nothing else, those in the sponsorship industry should be paying close attention as this plays out.

I reached out to my network recently for their feedback:

“Most folks sponsoring anything in China do it because they see a huge market. Tibet wouldn’t make a dime’s difference to that picture.

For the other negligible minority, Tibet is only one of a long list of concerns. In that sense, there are already other symptoms that cause apprehensions.

A venture-funding-specialist friend of mine predicted that China is fast heading into an overheated state; and that folks with long-term interests are taking their money (and baggage) out of China. So why would they even begin to sponsor?” Sastry Tumuluri, Founder/CEO at AntHill IdeaLabs

“I’m involved in the sponsorship marketing industry and, while I’m not currently working with Olympic partners, I’ve had an opportunity to speak with people who oversee these investments for the sponsors.

Truth of the matter is that sponsors are chomping at the bit to get access to the Chinese market. In fact, one gent from Visa almost grew faint when explaining the opportunity for that company (Chinese apparently don’t have much debt. Yet.) These sponsors see the Olympics as a way to both reach the masses and (more importantly) to create strategic ties to the Chinese government by supporting their ‘crown jewel’.

Sponsors of the Beijing Games have been preparing for (and spending on) this event since before the start of the 2004 Athens Olympics. A tremendous amount of time, energy, and money has already been committed.

As a result, I highly doubt that any Olympic sponsor has qualms about their ongoing participation in the 2008 Summer Games. To be certain, I’m sure they’re hopeful that the situation in Tibet will be resolved. But the plans for this event were put into place a long time ago are currently being executed at full speed ahead. ” David Almy, Owner at ADC Partners

“… Since China is the host of the Summer Games, we are calling on China to join the charity and reach out with aid to Darfur, and take the opportunity to be honorable hosts and follow the example of others who are doing positive things for the people of Darfur, who are hurting and being killed.

Maybe we can accomplish something by providing China with the opportunity to do honorable acts now that they are in the position of leadership, and the eyes of the entire world are watching. I hope this will produce more results than protests alone have (not much other than awareness … ” Jesse Gift, PR for Aid Still

As the Olympic torch relay makes its way through San Francisco today, it will be interesting to relate coverage of protests to sponsorship. Is this a challenge to the $ winning vs. human rights? Why is Tibet the most visible symbol of oppression when it is occurring in many places? Is it fair to the athletes to take a stand here? Are the athletes still using performance enhancing drugs? What exactly is the positioning here?

Or this simply not a Marketing issue? Over to you….