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The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 4: The #Sochialympics

Back in February 2012 when Synergy coined the term #Socialympics (which subsequently went viral and was even adopted by the IOC), it was clear that the mass-adoption of social media was going to have a profound effect on London 2012. So it proved, as we discussed at our two #Socialympics panel events either side of the 2012 Games. Two years on, the effect has been no less profound on Sochi 2014, so here's my take on some of the key moments and learnings of the #Sochialympics.

Social Ambush

As I wrote on Monday in the first of this series of posts, social media has replaced the international leg of the Torch Relay as the lightning rod for Olympic protest. For Olympic sponsors in particular, the hijacking of the McDonalds #cheerstosochi campaign should now be a key case study. (On which point, why is McDonald's still displaying the fact that the campaign has only attracted a few thousand cheers?)

The #Sochialympics also showed how effective social is for ambushers.

My ambush gold medal goes to Zippo: Sochi's first social ambush was also its best, a brilliant piece of reactive marketing and savvy "Who me?" PR.

ZippoFB

Zippofollowup

Silver goes to USOC sponsor JCPenney's #tweetingwithmittens, for ambushing the Super Bowl with the Olympics.

JCPenney

And bronze goes to Crowdtilt for showcasing their platform to send the Jamaican bobsledders to Sochi and leverage probably the biggest feelgood story of the Sochi Games.

Crowdtilt

 

#SochiSelfies and #SochiProblems    

The #SelfieOlympics was the first big web meme of the year, as I wrote in January along with a few suggestions as to what the IOC and the Olympic Movement could learn from it.

As tens of thousands of these shots were taken in bathrooms, it was pleasingly symmetrical as well as hugely entertaining that the first big #Sochialympics meme was #sochiproblems, driven by journalists' pictures of their Sochi hotel experiences. This was then seized on by a 20 year old Canadian journalism major, whose savvy curation won his @SochiProblems Twitter handle over 330,000 followers - 60,000 more than @Sochi2014. A parable of our times.

But in the photos-in-bathroom stakes, no question that the big winner was US bobsledder Johnny Quinn, with this picture, which went viral, generated a blitz of media stories and has made him a household name in the US. 

Quinn

And to bring us full circle in this particular loop, selfies have been a big thing at Sochi, with athletes - perhaps influenced by the #SelfieOlympics? - spontaneously adopting the #SochieSelfies hashtag, and many NOCs creating their own versions to drive engagement.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

With Facebook focused on its NBC tie-up, Twitter has pushed out a lot of Olympic-related content during the Games to drive attention and conversation, including collages of the most-shared photos, heatmaps of which countries are mentioning the Olympics most (I included one in my post on Monday), and infographics about medal-winning athletes' follower growth, such as this one for GB's Lizzie Yarnold:

TwitterYarnold

In contrast to one-dimensional TV viewing figures, it's revealed fascinating insights into local and global consumer behaviour and engagement with the Games.

The IOC has predictably reported big growth in social numbers. With an Olympic TV channel very much on the agenda - for the periods between Games - nurturing this community becomes ever more important for IOC.

Sochi 2014 CEO Dmitry Cheryshenko (@DChernyshenko) has shown top Olympic officials - and sporting officialdom generally - how to use social for the job while staying real. Same goes for Ricardo Fort of Visa (@SportByFort) when it comes to sponsors.

Under Ricardo, Visa has put much more into social in Sochi than it did in London and has got a big uplift in interactivity.

Sochi has also seen a growing contrast between 'tweets for hire' athletes intent on growing their followers and happy for their streams to be scripted by sponsors, versus 'the naturals', such as Iouri Podladtchikov - aka 'I-Pod' - the halfpiper who dethroned Shaun White and said:

"I really don't care if it's 10,000 followers or 100,000. I just want it to be me ... even if it's not selling."      

At the other end of the scale is Maria Sharapova who, not content with her NBC and Torch-bearing duties and contractual appearances for long-term sponsors Nike and Samsung in Sochi, also cut a one-off deal for a series of posts for McDonald's from the Games.

But this hasn't been the #Sochialympics.

It's been the #Tinderlympics.

Or maybe the #Grindrlympics.

Five Things The IOC Can Learn From The #SelfieOlympics

In early 2012, to denote the collision between mass-adoption social media and the Olympics, Synergy coined the term 'Socialympics', which subsequently went viral (even being adopted by the IOC), and staged two panel sessions in front of invited audiences either side of London 2012 to discuss the Socialympics phenomenon. (If you missed them, you can find a round-up of Socialympics 1 here and Socialympics 2 here).Fast forward to today, and in the days leading up to Sochi 2014, the first big internet meme of 2014 is the #SelfieOlympics, which has seen teens and young adults compete to top one another with selfies which vary from the extreme to the bizarre and everything in between. You haven't seen one? ('WHAT ARE YOU 30?!' as MTV wrote recently). Here's an early example: 

SelfieOlympics

I can't say that we predicted the #SelfieOlympics back in our 2012 Socialympics sessions (now that would have been something), but I can say that we focused on an issue highlighted by the #SelfieOlympics: the enormous potential of social media to help the IOC address one of its biggest challenges - making the Olympics relevant and accessible to teens and young adults, and reverse the ageing Olympic demographic worldwide.

So, here's five things I'd suggest that the IOC and the Olympic Movement could learn from the #SelfieOlympics about marketing to the young.

1. The young get 'Faster, Higher, Stronger'. For any brand manager that would be good news: for the IOC, in a world full of brands with much bigger budgets competing for the young's attention and understanding, it's amazing news.

2. If you want the young to get into your brand, above all let them have some fun with it. This is not natural territory for the IOC, which has a tendency to be over-worthy, but it's territory they need to embrace.       

3. Your best marketers are your consumers. If the next generation is capable of spontaneously creating and spreading an idea as entertaining and viral as the #SelfieOlympics, who knows what else they can come up with? Invite them to play around some more with your brand.

4. If you want to market the Olympics to the young, think beyond sport. The #SelfieOlympics has done as much for the Olympic brand with the young as the Youth Olympic Games, which hasn't ever come close to going viral.

5. If the Olympic brand can go viral in this way once, it can do it again. The IOC and its stakeholders can make this happen: start with athletes posting #SelfieOlympics pics at Sochi, say.