If the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing served as the awkward first date between social media and the Olympics, the 2010 Winter Games is social media leaving its toothbrush in the Olympic’s apartment (or getting to first base, whatever end to that analogy floats your particular boat). Either way, the point is that things are more serious this time around. Social media has taken an even more pervasive grip on our culture and it’s certainly more in the public mind than it was even in 2008. Athletes and advertisers are ready. Update your statuses and slip in a quick tweet. It’s time to talk social media at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The fact that more athletes will be writing blogs and giving up-to-the-minute updates undoubtedly gives social media a bigger impact in the Olympics this time around. For popular athletes this means unprecedented opportunities to bring the viewing public into one of the most exciting times of their lives. The face of US snowboarding, Shaun White is looking forward to “flooding” photos and personal stories from behind the scenes. Similarly, Lindsay Vonn, who just recently revealed at a press conference that she may be too injured to participate in various skiing events, tweeted that she “took a bunch of pain killers” and her situation was “good enough to give it a shot in the training run.” NBC has gone so far as to aggregate twitter feeds from 80 athletes for a one-stop shopping for fresh updates, which is likely to be a popular addition to their coverage. From personal experience to injury update, outlets like Twitter and Facebook offer exciting opportunities to followers.
The popularity of social media in these Olympics may mean even more for those athletes seeking extra exposure. Jeret Peterson, a member of the US freestyle skiing team, is using social media to not only to give his fans insight but to also generate new fans. Peterson is hoping he can get as many followers as possible (already 2,000 on Facebook) to cheer him on as he performs the “Hurricane”, his one-of-a-kind aerial trick that competitors have yet to master. Tweets like “Check out NBC’s The Biggest Loser tomorrow…I will be on there” mixed in with “There is no better feeling than when the other country’s coaches…tell you how well you did when you STOMP the Hurricane!!! I am SOOOO pumped to compete tomorrow” show a blend of PR along with personal tidbits that the fans are sure to love. You’ll be able to follow many of your favorite athletes on a moment-by-moment basis and get a true sense of being transported to the games, while up-and-coming athletes will be able to make a name for themselves.
Despite some recent confusion on how social media and blogging may be used by athletes, Bob Condron, the Director of New Media for the International Olympic Committee, expects “heavy social media activity among U.S. athletes in Vancouver.” That’s good news for you, good news for NBC to build up some extra excitement (more viewers), and in the event of a no-snow situation the athletes can use Twitter to decided where to meet for karaoke.
Athletes and fans aren’t the only ones getting in on the game: Advertisers this time around are working to integrate social media into their campaigns, whereas in Beijing it acted as more of an add-on to existing campaigns. Sponsors and advertisers will be “plowing money that in previous Olympiads would have been spent in TV into digital channels that barely existed during prior games.” For instance, Samsung is sending out teams of “Mobile Explorers” to blog via cell phone, and Panasonic is combining its efforts in social media with its athlete sponsorships to offer unique content to put its logo on. Social media is still a small component of overall advertising strategies of big sponsors, with TV and online still holding the predominant advertising role. Given its relatively small size, the integration of social media increases the chances of a deeper level of engagement with the consumer. Big sponsors are likely to achieve a more personal touch while being able to offer something of content value to its target audiences.
Expect social media to have its biggest presence in the Olympics yet, and expect to get what may be an altogether new dimension of experience that Olympic fans have been craving. The connectedness is sure to add a new buzz to the world’s favorite games.