Case Study - The Olympic Games and Social Media

Big Brands Nudge Social Media Interest in the Olympic Games

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The Summer Olympics 2012 Salutes the Colorful British Brand. © Andres Rodriguez |

The 2012 Olympic Games in London is a test case for the use of social media to focus consumers on the brand rather than on themselves. Big brands like Visa, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, General Electric, and Proctor & Gamble are, in fact, gambling that they can nudge or prod (if necessary) consumers into using social media networks to talk about the Olympic Games. More specifically, the big brands are betting that they can entice consumers to engage in conversations about their brands.

Since the big sponsors of the Olympic games have already spent about one billion dollars to associate the official Olympic seal of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games with their brands, the die has been cast. There will brand connections with consumers. The use of social media is expected to be greater for the 2012 Olympic Games than for any prior sporting event in the age of media advertising. Everyone (in advertising, marketing, market research, and media publication) has their eye on the return-on-investment (ROI) expected, or hoped for, as the case may be, in this grand endeavor.

Use of Social Media by Adults in the U.S. Continues to Rise

In the five ensuing years, the number of U.S. adults using social media increased 24% since 2007. At that time, the use of social media hovered around 63% of adults in the United States; in 2012, that number has increased to 87%.

According to a digital survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), a corresponding increase in the use of online video by marketers can be seen. In 2011, only 64% of the marketers were posting online videos on platforms like YouTube. In one short year, the number of marketers using online video to deliver brand messages increased to 80%.

Further, the same ANA study found that a full 90% of marketers include social media as part of their marketing mix.

Proctor & Gamble has taken a position on the use of social media in the 2012 Olympic Games that reflects the general attitude of big brand sponsors of the Games. Consider that in 2010, only about 10% of the total ad impressions by Proctor & Gamble were a result of social media. Based on their analysis of the superiority of social media over television ads, for example, Proctor & Gamble anticipates that fully 50% of its ad impressions will occur as a result of social media activity.

Here's Looking at You, Kid Is Not the Same As Hail, the Brand You Will Adore!

Consumers tend to communicate with their peeps and peers on social media network sites about themselves, about their friends, and about their own interests. If these vectors intersect with the brand, the social media manager's job becomes immediately easier. The secret here, say some marketers, is to make sure that the brand supplies share-worthy content. If, for instance, a big sponsor posts a funny video that highlights their brand in some way on YouTube, the marketing campaign may be half won. A second important criterion is that the brand must be a good fit with the social media activity.

An example of this would be the embedded ads of social entertainment media games. Martin Lindstrom, the author of the book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy argues that consumers will suppress the name of the brand if it is not a good fit with the social media activity at the time of release by the brand marketing campaign.

Julie Hall argues that the social promotion tact will not be as productive or profitable as a focus on developing one-on-one relationships with customers. This argument may hold, but as Forrester Research reports, the fact is that over 500 billion peer influence impressions will result from social media activity in 2012. It is simply impossible for the big sponsors to ignore the astounding numbers associated with social media. For instance, the number of Facebook users active at the time of the 2008 Summer Games stood at about 100 million.

In the 2012, the Summer Olympic Games activities will be greeted by 900 million Facebook users and by the approximately 500 million people with Twitter accounts. Consider the impact of 500 million potential Tweeters following the 2012 Summer Olympic Games versus the 6 million Twitter followers during the 2008 Summer Games.

In addition to the websites of the big brands, a USA article was consulted during research for this article. See source: Horovitz, B. (2012, July 27). For marketers, this Olympics is a social media event. USA Today.

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