31 JUL. 2012

London 2012 Olympic Game’s Digital Presence: East vs. West

4 years have passed since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Back then, Facebook was just starting to gather steam outside of the US, Twitter was still a curiosity reserved for tech-enthusiasts,SinaWeibo did not even exist and the mobile web had yet to truly take off. Now, all of the aforementioned services and many others have fundamentally changed the way we communicate, express ourselves, seek information and interact with brands. The 2012 Olympic Games in London will be the first to take place in this brave new digital world.

Keeping up with the pace of change in the field of digital marketing has been a major challenge for organizers who have had to quickly integrate new platforms in their communication plan as they developed. Despite the difficulty of the task, the organizing committee has been extremely active on all digital fronts.

On Facebook, the official London 2012 page has over 500 000 likes and makes very good use of the new timeline format. The account blends informative content with more entertaining/educative content about the games, their history and their organization. It also features a social Facebook game on which people can build their own Olympic city.

Facebook page and social game

London 2012 also has a heavy Twitter presence with hash tags for each discipline. Twitter is mainly used to give live updates about Olympic-related events such as the torch relay.

London 2012 also boasts a rich Youtube channel with videos about athletes, landmarks of the Olympic park, the torch relay and much more.

On the mobile front, organizers released two London 2012 applications: “Join in”that ispresented as the “mobile guide to help you plan, enjoy and share your Games experience” lists all Olympic-related events, providing details and integrating tools such as Google maps navigation to sites, Twitter integration and links towards the Olympic Game’s m-commerce site. The other application is a rich, interactive scoreboard keeping track of all events and medal standings. In the “My games” section, users can even pick their country and get all relevant live information about its performance. London 2012 is also active on Instagram.

Mobile application and picture of the London 2012 Instagram account

Overall the committee does a good job at extending the brand beyond the event itself, creating more opportunities for contact and leveraging the full range of digital tools available. There is a feeling of coherence and consistency across all platforms with what appears to be a well thought out strategy for transfer between different touch-points. Through their digital strategy, organizers manage to create enthusiasm early on and also bring meaningful innovation to the live and on-site experiences.

Unofficial “Olympic Games” Weibo accounts

Things become less organized when we turn our attention towards the Olympic Committee’s communication on the Chinese web. London 2012 has no official account on any of the major Chinese social media platforms (SinaWeibo, TencentWeibo, RenRen and Qzone). However, many “grass-root” accounts do use the London Olympics logo and name to broadcast live Olympics news. These accounts have generated huge popularity among Chinese netizens. For example, on SinaWeibo alone, there are 14 Olympics related accounts that have at least 300,000 followers. The top account, “London Olympic News”, has 970,000 followers and growing. Data released by SinaWeibo Statistic Center shows that until noon of July 29th, 2012, there are 10.14 million discussions regarding the 4 Chinese Gold metals, 92.36 million people watched the Olympics videos, and 24 million viewed Sina’s Olympics pictures. Meanwhile all major Chinese web portals are creating their special Olympic Games pages to satisfy Chinese sports fans.
Although the IOC has no official account among Chinese social media platforms, the impact is still very strong. However, as China’s digital market evolves, the IOC must properly manage its presence in China. Chinese sports fans already heavily rely on the web and social media to feed their passion. IOC could leverage this passion to establish strong presence while providing an official platform for sponsored brands to showcase their ties with the Olympics, an area which still needs to be explored by the Olympic Committee in China.  

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