Although the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver were sometimes referred to as the “Social Games,” this year’s London 2012 Olympic Games may become the largest focal point ever for the use of social media. With obvious exponential growth in the number of Twitter and Facebook users since the Vancouver event, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) head of social media told ESPN, “Vancouver was just the first snowflake . . . This is going to be a big snowball.”
The IOC has issued detailed social media, blogging and Internet guidelines for the athletes participating. While the guidelines encourage the use of social media, athletes are reminded to avoid any commercial affiliations or advertising. With more than 14,000 athletes expected to participate in the 2012 Olympic Games, do you think the IOC will be able to monitor all those social media accounts?
Attempts to work around the guidelines have already surfaced. Take American runner Nick Symmonds, for example. As reported in the New York Times, Symmonds held an auction on eBay to sell the right to display a Twitter handle as a temporary tattoo on his shoulder that he planned to wear during the 2012 track and field season and the Olympic Games in London (assuming he qualified … and he did). The winner? Hanson Dodge Creative, a Wisconsin-based advertising and design agency, for a price of $11,100.
How does he intend to get around the IOC guidelines? Well, Symmonds wears white tape over the @HansonDodge tattoo when he runs, and it’s visible at all other times. There’s also a blackout period between July 18 and August 18 when athletes cannot appear in ads from non-Olympic sponsors, so Hanson Dodge will not be featuring Symmonds on their website during that time. Symmonds said he wants to draw attention to the policies that prohibit sponsor logos and branding from being displayed. He told the Times, “My brand identity is to treat every day like it’s your last, live life to the fullest.”
Official sponsors, like McDonald’s, Samsung, P&G, and others, are actively using Facebook, YouTube, and smart phone apps to promote their brands to Olympic audiences. According to the Wall Street Journal, top corporate sponsors paid the IOC a combined total of $957 million for marketing rights to the 2012 London Games and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Volunteers at the Olympic Games (called “Games Makers”) are also subject to social media rules. They’re to avoid tweeting or posting photos or footage featuring VIPs and restricted areas that are not open to the public. The BBC reported that they are told not to “get involved in detailed discussion about the Games online.”
What about spectators? Just like athletes, spectators are advised that social media posts should be written in a first-person “diary-type format.” Also, photos and video can be posted on personal accounts, as long as they are not uploaded to public sites for commercial purposes.
And, of course, the IOC itself is using social media. The organization has are several downloadable apps available in the iTunes store, including one for official results of each event. Plus, the IOC has launched an Olympic Athletes’ Hub website that helps fans find athletes’ social media posts, including tweets.
How do you think the growth in social media will impact the 2012 Olympic Games?