By Rebecca Hopkins
It may be unsurprising that the brand dominating the coverage is the Olympic one itself, and not always for the right reasons, but this is the first major event I have worked on in 14 years where PR for the ‘sponsor family’ (ie the collective of brands sponsoring the Games) has been so unsurprising, especially as so many digital opportunities seem to have been missed.
When London was awarded hosting rights for the Olympics in 2006 the opportunity was heralded as the first chance to stage a ‘truly social’ major, international sports event. This proved impressively prophetic and caused a lot of excitement – although at the time most people didn’t seem sure exactly what this would look like.
Since the Football World Cup and Winter Olympics in 2010, the power of social media has escalated exponentially; the record breaking 9420 tweets per second seen in January 2012 for Tebow’s overtime touchdown pass was unthinkable two years ago, but is likely to seem paltry compared to international reaction on gold medal winners in London.
Testament to online’s importance is that the IOC is monitoring game-time conversations about each of the 28 Olympic sports with a view to tailoring 2020 programming decisions for accordingly.
The issue with the above is that it is all user-generated. Today’s options for athletes, the media and sponsors to engage with fans – and vice versa - via websites, Facebook, YouTube and blogs are vast as well as the interactivity offered by Zeebox, Jamcloud and the potential force that is Smart TV.
But social media is more than ‘likes’, ‘follows’ or information dispatch, it is about forging an engaging relationship with an audience which is often self-selecting as well as increasingly sophisticated and hard to impress. Many brands’ visible commitment to leveraging online opportunities falls far below what one would expect, let alone what is available.
There have been rumors suggesting sponsors are finding their activation rights restrictive, certainly the majority of sponsors (with the exception of Samsung and their excellent Genome campaign) and the London Organizing Committee seems to be playing it safe. Maybe technology moved too quickly to be harnessed properly, maybe sponsors - or the campaign approval process - were insufficiently nimble to keep up, is it that digital is yet to be fully embedded in a lot of PRs’ DNA?
My suspicions are the latter but I am certain of one thing, when a social Games was discussed in 2006 we weren’t simply meant to get on with it ourselves.
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Rebecca Hopkins is managing director of London PR agency ENS Ltd.