How Brands are Competing for Olympic Gold

Last week, in Going for the Gold ,my colleague, Toni Box talked about how every major social network has incorporated hashtags to allow its users to seamlessly access specific stories, photos, and opinions. Facebook’s latest addition of trending topics has transformed the social platform into a more accurate news source; Olympic fans can safely rely on both Twitter and Facebook to deliver the most current and relevant trending topics directly to their feeds.

The major social networks are going mainstream, poised to work alongside major television and media networks as “media” channels in their own right.  Part of the appeal of social networks is created by the people in them, personalities on the ground floor, news media commentators, along with our friends and families.

Times have indeed changed since Vancouver – what these numbers show is that many more people are watching the games with others in public, and athletes who have developed a presence in social networks have also become sources for fans – first person account publishers in their own rights.

Snowboarder and American favorite, Shaun White, went from 90,000 to 1,342,247 followers on Twitter (that’s 93,657 new followers since last week) by doing both – performing at race time, and being social, taking fans behind the scenes and talking about his experience. Fast Company saw is coming: Shaun White’s Business is indeed red hot#.

A winning athlete’s sponsors end up benefiting twice, because we all know brands become interesting once interesting people start using  and talking about them. It is the human interaction that activates them.

Even though Shaun White ended up finishing fourth place in the men’s half pipe competition in Sochi on Tuesday afternoon, his share of attention has certainly gone up during the Games so far.

Sponsors of Olympic Proportions

The brands with skin in the Games, literally, are veterans. Their marketing teams have been integrating social into their content marketing strategy for a number of years, so we won’t be looking to compare their presences from four years ago, like we did for athletes.

However, we are taking a baseline at this point in time and we’ll be looking at growth to offer remarks about what we found compelling and interesting in their participation at the end of the games.

The key sponsors for Sochi 2014 Winter Games are Coca-Cola, Atos, Dow, GE, McDonalds, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, and Visa. As they stand at the moment of this writing, their fans and followers on main networks are:


Curating the Experience in Real Cultural Time

We are seeing greater integration by brands in marketing and communications, online and offline, and real time support of their sponsorship.

Right off the gate, we spotted Visa’s ads# driving traffic to a magazine-style presentation of Olympic events on their Tumblr stream where the Visa team is curating the company sponsorship by publishing snackable and sharable editorial content about the Games.

Shiv Singh, SVP Global Brand & Marketing Transformation, Visa Inc. recently talked about missed opportunities for brands in social during the Super Bowl# and his point about marketing to the network and not just individuals could find excellent applications with the competitive nature of the Games, which are already about the human condition.

The Winter Games also play within a larger cultural context provided by Sochi – and we are seeing how the news media is offering one perspective with commentary about accommodations, the International Olympics Committee and host organization is offering another with logistics, and various countries teams with handling simple issues like finding and cooking nourishing food# for the athletes to keep them in top race shape.

Brands are present with their voice in all channels. Coca-Cola issued a press release# to support the company’s decision to run the multilingual “America the Beautiful” full ad during opening ceremony, and is proud to display it on top digital real estate, its Web site home page. Coke in USA and Country menus are right there to remind us, this is not just a stance based on current context, although it certainly did play a role in prompting further communications from the famously multicultural brand.

In line with its publishing strategy to help make the jobs of moms (and dads) around the house easier, P&G delivered a hit ad# of gratitude “For teaching us that falling only makes us stronger. Thank you, Mom.” So far, more than 16,2 million people have watched it on YouTube, proving that great storytelling is the connective tissue of a strong content strategy, every day#.

To stay with the cultural theme, McDonald’s, a company that has been on the receiving end of criticism and pranks in social networks before, is balancing responding to criticism# about its ad content decisions, while providing free food to fellow country-people who have traveled to Sochi for the Games#.

This post is getting quite long already, so we will take a look at the rest of the content initiatives by Sochi Winter Games sponsoring brands in potentially two more posts as we keep an eye on their social activities.

As I am fond of saying, becoming social is a content-based proposition. Let the Games continue.



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