As our world becomes more connected through online channels, the London 2012 Olympic Games is on pace to be the first true social media games. This worldwide event involves viewers not only watching sports events unfold with families and friends on TV and in person, but also includes them directly interacting with the network, athletes and other viewers through social channels such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
“At the time of the 2000 Games in Sydney few people had fast Internet connections. In Athens in 2004, not many people had smartphones. At the Beijing Olympics in 2008 there were 100 million people using Facebook but that figure has soared to about 900 million. Twitter was new in 2008 but now has more than 500 million users who send about 400 million tweets daily with sports news regularly broken on the micro-blogging network.” – Study by Atos, an Olympic sponsor which provides the IT operations for the Games.
Before the Opening Ceremonies, reports were coming in about social media buzz for the Olympic opening ceremonies secrets. A hashtag was created by the event producers to #savethesurprise and was flashed on the stadium’s giant screens as tens of thousands of people attended a technical run-through of the opening ceremonies.
Social media is certainly connecting athletes and fans. What about sponsorships and branding? Are more socially active Olympians getting more sponsors?
Then there is the topic of social media guidelines. One Olympian has been dishcharged from the games due to a controversial tweet. The IOC has banned social media use by athletes to promote sponsors. A critic of NBC and the Olympics on Twitter had his account suspended.
In addition to the games and exciting competition, it will be a case study for future games as to how the social media Olympics plays out.