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The Socialympics: Something for Everyone

“This is for everyone.” So said the lights flashing across the audience at London’s Olympic Stadium as the same message was simultaneously tweeted during the games’ opening ceremony.

The sender of the message? Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. Though certain American broadcasters had no idea who he was (I’m looking at you, Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer), Berners-Lee’s appearance signified something of far greater weight than a mere celebration of famous Britons.

The Olympics have always been about bringing the world together, but the 2012 London games have elevated this sentiment. Dubbed “the Socialympics” by many a media geek, this year’s games brought about interactive social campaigns from sponsors, athletes, and the games themselves, campaigns that took global engagement and involvement to new heights. In many respects, the games have taken place on the Web.

When the last Summer games were going on, back in 2008 in Beijing, social media was still new territory. Facebook and Twitter had only a fraction of the users they have now, smartphones were still a novelty, and tablets didn’t even exist. Most companies were still testing the waters when it came to social and mobile campaigns. Fast forward four years and social and mobile campaigns are a virtual requirement of most companies, especially when participating in a major event like the Olympics.

Companies like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and Samsung stretched beyond their typical output of a few grandiose commercials and created memorable social campaigns powered by fan participation. Coca-Cola had fans mixing and sharing beats, Visa solicited cheers via Facebook, and Procter & Gamble had the whole world thanking their moms.

Social campaigns extended into the physical world as well. One of the most talked about was the collaboration between the iconic London Eye ferris wheel and EDF Energy, the official energy supplier of the games. By collecting tweets about the games and scanning them for positive and negative phrases, EDF determined the overall mood toward Team Great Britain each day and displayed the results via colour-coded light displays on the Eye. The wheel also uses lights to communicate major sporting highlights and victories, including a Union Jack display when Britain takes home a medal.

“The values and achievements of the Olympics will be amplified by the World Wide Web. It will be like millions of digital torches carrying the spirit of the Games to every corner of the world.”
– Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Early results are pointing to success for companies like Procter & Gamble and Samsung, both of whom racked up over 800,000 engaged subscribers over the course of the games.  Samsung in particular, with its Everyone’s Olympic Games campaign, achieved success by tailoring content to specific global locations and releasing it through several local channels. This provides them with a framework to continue engaging their audiences in a personal, localized way as they roll out new campaigns in the future.

From the good to the bad, this year’s Olympics were defined by social campaigns. This could be the signal of a new era, one where fans participate in and help to define the Olympic Games. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee put it, “The values and achievements of the Olympics will be amplified by the World Wide Web. It will be like millions of digital torches carrying the spirit of the Games to every corner of the world.”

It’s still too soon to measure the success of most Olympic social campaigns from a commercial standpoint. The total participant numbers haven’t all rolled in, and it can be difficult to judge how much of a company’s business was driven by social media. That being said, in many ways the Olympic social campaigns are already a success, as they’ve achieved the remarkable feat of changing the nature of the games, by bringing them to the web, and, as Berners-Lee indicated, to everyone.

Photo credit: flickr