One of the most interesting aspects of the 2012 Summer Olympics isn’t the pole vault or shot put, but rather how the games are bringing sports and social media together. Three of the biggest social media sites — Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube — are poised to play an unprecedented role at the Olympics. As a result, for more than two weeks, sports and social media will go hand in hand, making these the “first social games.” By the closing ceremony, it’s likely that just as many records will have been broken online as on the playing field.
Without a doubt, the vast majority of this year’s athletes have embraced social media. Whether personally or with the help of an agent, many of them will diligently provide real-time updates to their fans throughout the games. And it’s not just the athletes — the International Olympic Committee has also climbed on board the social media bandwagon. In addition to creating official Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages that will broadcast live feeds throughout the Olympics, the IOC has set up an Olympic Athletes’ Hub, a site that allows visitors to more easily follow their favorite competitors on Facebook and Twitter.
Not to be outdone, the sponsors have also gotten in on the game and are capitalizing on the convergence of sports and social media to the fullest. Having spent millions of dollars in sponsorships, P&G, British Airways, Cadbury, Visa, and others are keen to fully activate their investment utilizing the power of social media. Here again, the competition is just as fierce as among the athletes. In fact, Sociagility, a London-based agency that analyzes brands’ social media activities, is tracking the social media performance of the Olympic sponsors through its London 2012 Social Scoreboard.
These are just a few basic examples of how social media has infiltrated the 2012 Olympics. The net result is that fans around the world will have greater access to and be more engaged with the games than ever before. For the first time, all of the 32 sports and 300 individual events that are part of the Olympics will gain the exposure that they deserve (I’m looking at you archery, badminton, and handball) and have their moment in the spotlight. And, for the first time, fans will be able to interact by sharing their own reactions, likes, favorites, tweets, and more.
Of course, the underlying point here is that the proliferation of social media has been nothing short of explosive over the past few years. That becomes particularly clear when you compare these Olympics with the Beijing games held just four years ago. While the fact that those games weren’t particularly social is partly a reflection of Chinese policy, it’s also a reminder of how much social media has grown. Compare the following stats from then versus now and you’ll see what I mean:
In case you’re wondering about the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, most commentators discount the Winter Games, which are less popular, and therefore didn’t have the same potential or impact.
No matter what you think about Facebook (I certainly have my fair share of reservations about it) and other social media sites, they are forever going to change the way we experience the Olympics. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reporting back on how it goes down.
What are your thoughts about the first social Olympics?