The London 2012 Olympics were billed as the first ‘Twitter Olympics’, but a new research study suggests that sponsors “rarely left the purview of conventional marketing and barely dipped into social media.” Those are the words of Jim Singer from AT Kearney, which recently surveyed the integration of advertising and digital among London 2012 sponsors. The results confirm a suspicion of mine that hardened as the Games progressed: many sponsors focused their efforts squarely on traditional marketing, and social media activation appeared to be an afterthought, if that. This view first struck me at a July lunch of senior digital leaders from some of the world’s largest public relations firms, during the first week of the Olympics. These events take place under Chatham House rules, so I cannot reveal any identities, and - in any case - the people in question all handled considerable Olympic activity. But there was a clear consensus that the social media efforts of sponsors left plenty to be desired. In particular, the digital heads noted that integration between social media and experiential was largely missing, with some worthy exceptions. The Adidas #stagetaken push, which combined genuine viral reach, with a substantial OOH presence; and AT&T’s real-time TV campaign. AT Kearney found that of the sponsors which advertised on TV, few made much mention of their digital presence.
Coca-Cola and McDonalds, the two megabrands with the most avant-garde digital media programs going into the Games, used almost no references to the web or social media in their ads. Of the 50 per cent of advertisers who made any reference to the digital world whatsoever, four-fifths only posted a URL link to their brand’s website. Another advertiser, Visa Gold, did include a Facebook and Twitter reference in their advertising, but these efforts read as an afterthought. The brand’s last post had updated its cover photo to an Olympic-themed photo taken the day before the Opening Ceremony, but after this the company ignored its page, failing to post any relevant ads, not responding to any consumer posts and not sharing any fresh or timely material.
This digital disconnect, added AT Kearney senior analyst Christine Heggie, is “all the more surprising in light of the extensive use of social media references by many of these same advertisers during previous sporting events, such as the Super Bowl.” Indeed, as one of the agency digital heads pointed out to me: “Some of these clients are among the best at integrating social. But the Olympics are still seen as a giant above-the-line push to recoup price tag. There's also a big ‘this is how we've done it before’ hump to get over.” Another view? That sponsors simply ran out of money for execution, particularly when it came to the social media component. We have covered the social media efforts of the sponsors in considerable detail, in conjunction with Sociagility’s London 2012 Social Scoreboard. When it comes to the integration of those efforts with the broader marketing push, AT Kearney’s findings suggest there is still plenty of work to be done. Notes Heggie:
“Especially for an event as multi-layered and fast-paced as the Olympics, it’s all in the timing. When President Obama sent a congratulatory tweet after Michael Phelps won his 19th gold medal, that sent a more relevant message, in this day and age, than a formal invitation to White House. And gold medallist Missy Franklin was almost as excited about Justin Bieber’s tweet as about her victory.  Clearly, advertisers need to start looking at communication channels differently."