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What the Olympics Can Teach Us About Social Media Marketing

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The 2012 Olympics were highly touted as the “Social Media Olympics.” Despite a few social media gaffes, the IOC hasn’t regretted its emphasis on social networking. The IOC points to the 15 million fans engaging with the Olympics on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter that their efforts to engage consumers with social media are working. Major Olympic sponsors have also stepped up their efforts to promote their brands across social media channels during the Olympics. What can the Olympics teach us about social media marketing?

It’s the connection that matters.

Olympic sponsors build brand awareness during the Olympics, but it’s a short lived effect. After the closing ceremonies, consumers have short-term memories for all the commercials and logos plastered across their screens. Successful social media marketing campaigns build on the personal nature of social media to create emotional connections with consumers that translate into dollars spent after the events are over. Consider a few of the ways top sponsors are building consumer engagement with their brands:

  • Coca-Cola’s “Create my beat” promo sets the sounds of six athletes to a musical beat, then allows users to allow their own sounds to mix a track and share it on social media. The campaign gives users what they want: the ability to create and share unique content that gives them “cred” among their friends.
  • Proctor & Gamble created short video spots that share about the athletes through the eyes of their mothers. Sponsored athletes like Ryan Lochte tweeted about the videos and encouraged fans to view them. Proctor & Gamble says that their social media marketing efforts get 50% better returns on investment than their traditional T.V. ads.
  • McDonald’s chose to create an emotional rather than a corporate Olympic message. The company chose top crew members to work at its Olympic locations, then videoed their employees and shared the videos on their social media networks. It’s apparently working—McDonald’s has 10 times more followers in 2012 than in 2010.


Social media marketing has a broader reach.

Traditionally, successful Olympic marketing has depended largely on ambush marketing—where non-official sponsors place ads associated with the event. For example, Kodak’s 1984 Olympic marketing campaign was so prominent that many people thought Kodak, not Fuji, was the Olympic sponsor. Ambush marketing only works for those watching the event on television, however, missing the 900 million Facebook users and 500 million Twitter followers who are using social media channels to keep up with the games. For the first time, social media marketing allows consumers to hear directly from the athletes and social media users can’t get enough. Brands who haven’t capitalized on the social media momentum have left a huge gap in their marketing strategy.

Successful Olympic social media marketing campaigns have helped their brands drive the conversation rather than just participating in the conversation. Contact us to learn how Endeavor Social Media can help you follow their example.

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On August 10, 2012

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