This year is the “Social Olympics.” No, it doesn’t mean the Olympic athletes suddenly get together and act like college students as they get to know each other in their dorm-like habitats. They already do something of the sort already. And in years past, the Olympics has been social, to a certain extent — Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr were all invented before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, a lot has changed with social media in that time. We are more connected than ever, as shown in these infographics comparing past Olympics:
And all that is change is being utilized to the point that the already ubiquitous Olympics will become inescapable:
Many more people now have smartphones, so they can react immediately to something they have seen in a stadium, arena, court, pool, ring or velodrome. Clearly the London Games will be tweeted, tagged, liked, blogged, mashed and rehashed like no previous Olympics.
The BBC is a following a strategy in particular that will keep you glued to a screen during all times of the day:
“One, ten, four” was introduced in early 2011 to simplify and bring greater discipline to the BBC’s online strategy which, in preceding years, had seen the organization develop 400 different web sites. Its aim was to deliver “connected storytelling” through the delivery of one service (the BBC) with ten products (including TV, News, Weather and Sport) across four screens–mobile, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.
Facebook is working with the IOC to expand their social media outreach, because you really can’t ignore Facebook, especially since they’ve added 800 million people to the site since the last Summer Olympics in 2008. They have a special page collecting all Olympic “footage” that covers everything from specific Olympic pages to athletes’ updates. NBC is also pairing up with Facebook so your friends will know what you are watching (even if they really don’t care). And the Washington Post is using the Socialcam app to create “London Eyes” all over the Olympic Games through their reporters and specific fan uploaded content as well.
Of course, in creating this project, I did a lot of outreach with Tumblr and blogs and Twitter, trying to find fans all around. With Twitter and Goole Hangout, I also found NBC reaching out to fans with specially allotted times with the athletes, like their #AskMegan initiative a couple weeks ago with Megan Rapinoe from the US Women’s Soccer Team.
Of course, the main reason this is the “first” social Olympics is the restrictions and guidelines put in place with social media in mind.
All this sharing and connecting has also created some new headaches. There is grumbling, for instance, about the restrictions that the organizers of the Games have imposed on this most freewheeling of media formats.
Local Olympic organizing committees always go to great lengths to protect sponsors, who sometimes shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to associate their brands with the Games, from so-called ambush marketing by companies that try to get free rides. Sometimes, as in the case of the London Games, special legislation is enacted.
This time, the guidelines include provisions for social media, detailing what marketers may and may not do. Among the banned actions are the use of certain word combinations in social media content: Nonsponsors have been warned not to try putting, say, “twenty-twelve” and “gold” in the same tweet.
Athletes and spectators face restrictions, too. Neither will be permitted to post video footage of sporting events to online forums. Participants are allowed to post on blogs or Twitter, but the postings must be in a “first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist,” the guidelines state.
“They must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organization,” the rules say.