Amped Up

6 Jul

Thanks to the official London 2012 Facebook page, I am charged up and ready for the Olympics to start! Too bad I still have to wait 21 days…

The Facebook page is doing a great job at trying to engage fans in the excitement embodied by the Olympic opening ceremonies. Their media team is clearly working hard on finding ways to help this year’s Olympic Games measure up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

They are also harnessing support of world famous bands to help champion their cause. Personally, I think this is a great tactic. Not all people who tune into the Olympics are die-hard sports fans. Some just tune in because they know a lot of their friends will be talking about it.

Earning the support of bands like Muse, who wrote “Survival” just for the games, opens doors to Olympic moments that untraditional fans may have not otherwise had. It also spices things up for those of us that are already passionate about athletics.

One thing that is surprising to me, however, are the lack of comments generated by users on the posts, pictures, and videos shared by the page. Maybe the numbers will grow as we get closer to the games, or maybe links to individual athlete stories will gain more attention once people see them actually compete…

The answer is unclear, but I hope whoever is planning the social media strategy finds a way to increase engagement because 3-4 comments or “likes” on such a huge international event is kind of depressing. I get more comments when I let my friends know what I had for dinner.

As we’ve seen, over the past few weeks, athletes, fans, and Olympic organizers are all a part of the changing media landscape. This year’s games will determine many of the procedures for major upcoming events, regarding social media use.

The scope of practice in marketing, public relations, advertising, and customer service has evolved drastically over a short period of time. It will be interesting to see how they continue to change in the future.

Side Note:

My time for blogging about social media, public relations, and the Olympics has come to a pause. For the next few weeks, I will be focusing my online efforts elsewhere. If you’re interested in kicking your lazy habits, and getting into shape, check out my fitness blog at Krisrael.com under ““I’m too lazy!” and other excuses I tell myself.”

Until next time…

Greatest Tool Creates Greatest Fear for Olympics Organizers

5 Jul

In in article recently posted on pamil-visions.net “everythingpr” page, Mihaela Lica Butler writes about imposed sponsor restrictions being foreseen as a possible problem during this year’s Olympic Games in London.

She addressed a post on Rueters.com that spoke to unauthorized product promotion at the recently held Euro Cup 2012 by Danish footballer (soccer player) Nicklas Bendtner. The Rueters article also discusses a similar “stunt” by British sprinter Linford Christie. While Bendtner was accused of prominently putting his Paddy Power-sponsored underpants on display after a goal against Portugal, Christie was seen sporting a pair of leaping cat emblem contact lenses of sponsor brand Puma in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Puma Lenses

Ad ambushing is becoming a great concern for Olympic organizers. Olympic sponsors pour millions of dollars, culminating into billions in revenue for game production, into legally sound advertisements during the games, so it is understandable that feathers would be ruffled over the free publicity some of the non-participating brands are trying to “sneak in” through loopholes and other organized stunts.

In the world’s first so-called “social media olympics”, expectations that fans will be closer to athletes and participants will have new channels to communicate with their followers is seen as both a great step forward in relationship management, and another consideration loss-prevention and legal teams will have to think about.

There are two ways this could turn out for the future of public relations. The team handling Olympic advertisements, sponsors and social media, will either come up with a solution for prevention that is carried out well, and can be used as a good example for public relations practitioners in the future, or, as with the case of Bendtner, it can essentially “blow up” in their faces, resulting in a “what-not-to-do” example.

Fans supported the Danish player to such an extent that his fine was covered by Paddy Power for a mere €100,000. That’s not a lot when compared to the “free” attention the brand gained, while competitors spent much more on legitimate ad space.

Paddy Power

USOC YouTube Channel

30 Jun

I am so excited about out the official USOC YouTube channel. It might surpass Facebook as my new online addiction.

The site offers stories about athletes, their training, progress, hopes, and results. This is a great public relations move for the US Olympic Committee. The page is an easy resource for Olympic fans to learn more about their favorite athletes, and also some they may have not heard of before.

After checking out a few videos on the “Qualified” page, one thing I noticed is that each athlete does a “call to action” at the end of the video asking fans to subscribe to the channel. This creates a new opportunity for fan engagement. Without asking, many fans would probably check out a few videos, and then move on to something else. By reminding viewers to subscribe, they may be more likely to consider doing it (it worked on me). They also make it simple, by adding a button icon that is shown over the video image with text saying, “Click to Subscribe.”

I also think it’s great that the page offers looks at Olympic moments some of us may have missed (because we weren’t born yet or otherwise). Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) is one of the greatest competitors of all time, and being able to retrieve footage from his Olympic gold is amazing. Without social media, conjuring film and commentary would be very difficult.

The only negative thing I have to say about the offering of videos is that I’m left tearing up after almost every one. Athletes train so hard, and often sacrifice things many of us take for granted. Usually the sob-fest doesn’t commence until the actual television broadcast of the games. Now I’ll be crying ALL THE TIME.

I was originally directed to the YoutTube channel from an article posted on Mashable.

Angry Knitters Unite

28 Jun

There has been a lot of talk the past few days about the use of trademarked Olympic property; namely the use of “Ravelympics” for a knitting event put on by Ravelry (a community of over 2,000,000 knitters). Cease and desist letters were served, harsh tones were used, and (presumably) a well organized group of angry women (and probably some men) with sticks took offense.

cary grant

Unbeknownst to the US Olympic Committee, knitters have a VERY strong online community. You can say they’re “close knit”! (Insert bad joke trumpet noise here – womp wahhhh). They rallied around the “unacceptable” letter and bombarded the US Olympic Facebook page. Smartly, however, the USOC listened to what was being said, apologized, and changed their response. In an article on Ragan’s PR Daily Europe website, USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky addressed some interesting questions regarding the communication strategy, breakdown, and revival of the occurrence. Sandusky said,

“Nobody here is perfect and if there’s something that needs to be corrected, correct it and don’t be embarrassed about doing the right thing.”

This is an important takeaway for public relations practitioners who wish to have success when dealing with online communities. Accepting mistakes and apologizing for them gets you much farther than “sticking to your guns”. Since this issue arose, the group has agreed to strike the name “Revelympics” from their vernacular and change the name of their event.

I wonder then, if the US Olympic Committee cares so much about the use of their logo by a group of people competing in events with sticks and string, how do they feel about athletes getting trademarked tattoos on their bodies? Are there rules and restrictions? If Joe-Schmoe got the Olympic rings tattooed on his shoulder, would there be an uproar? Maybe even a lawsuit?

For a more sardonic look at this story, check out this article from gawker.com.

Socialympics

23 Jun

An article posted on the BloombergBusinessweek website, “London Games to be first social media Olympics“, brings up some interesting points regarding the upcoming Games. With athletes and fans being more connected than ever, there are both concerns and new opportunities.

The article states, “at the last Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Twitter had about 6 million users and Facebook 100 million. Today, the figure is 140 million for Twitter and 900 million for Facebook.” It talks about expected traffic for social media servers, the ability for fans to upload live video from events, and also speaks to athlete-fan engagement. Olympic administrators have said that they will not police fan or athlete social media, but do offer some advice to those participating in online activities during the games.

Since one of things that draws people to the Olympic games, as I’ve discussed before, is the relatability of athletes and their stories to fans, administrators are encouraging relaxed lingo and emoticons. They suggest the uses of smiley faces and “LOL” so fans are less intimidated by the celebrity status of athletes. I think this is great promotion, and that they have valid points, but you also want to make sure the athletes don’t lose their honesty and authenticity. If they have never used “LOL” or emoticons, why should they start now? Although the suggestions set forth are with good intention, I think athletes need to be careful of becoming “fake”.

One thing I think Olympic organizers have considered wisely is that athletes cannot use social media for commercial purposes. Probably to the chagrin of most sponsors who were hoping to penetrate the market during these games, the rules are set for good reason. Without those guidelines, fans and athletes could potentially monetize content that should be reserved for the Games and it’s partners, and also prevents a flood of advertisements in what is already expected to be a high usage event for online servers.

Social Media for Support

22 Jun

Today is the first day of the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, OR. The focus for my past few posts has been on large scale social media campaigns, but what about the little guys? Individual athletes each have their own story to share. They all have a different perspective of the journey they have embarked upon.

I have seen great support for some of the competitors I know, through Facebook and Twitter. Many athletes trying to make it to London are low profile. They are fighting every second to stay in the mix. They aren’t the favorites, they are not return competitors to the Olympic Games, but they still work hard every day to achieve greatness. They work without publicists, some without sponsors, and many without direction for building a fan base.

Yet these athletes garner support online from family, friends, and members of the track and field community. Support is important for anyone striving to achieve such great heights. In most Olympic sports, the athletes struggle to get by with their heavy training schedules, and it is all for these moments.

It is interesting to see how athletes engage as their own public relations specialists. Each has his or her own style. They divulge different information, from hanging out before the race, to inspirational quotes, to posting humorous music videos. An example of this is a video posted by Decathlete, Jake Arnold.

All of these tactics help friends, followers, and competitors relate to the athletes. Some, like Jake, are more successful at building a fan base through quirky content, but as we know, there is no “right” formula for success online.

This begs the question, will academics find a formula to present to online users for successful campaigns? The past few days, a tiny wheel has started to spin in my brain. Spider webs are tearing, rust is coming off, and ideas about the future of public relations are coming to the forefront of my thoughts. Considering my disdain for research, I am considering questions that I believe academics need to answer. Can a formula be created to act as a theme for public relations practice, based on user preferences and opinions about credibility?

Public relations has, as I said in my first post, always been so wishy washy to me. None of the professors I have had the pleasure of taking a course from have preached the same principles. Some seem to be stuck in the land of spin, some are scientifically oriented and focus on strategy, and some give you vague guidelines and expect you to figure it out on your own. In order to be taken seriously as a profession, public relations practitioners need to find consistency.

Getting to Know the Competitors

16 Jun

Social media tools are making it easier and more efficient for Olympic athletes to share their stories. Although a few of the “favorites” are selected each year to have their story broadcast on television, social media is allowing that opportunity to more athletes than fans had access to in the past.

Social media is changing the way we receive information about competitors of the Olympic Games. This is exemplified perfectly by Canada’s effort to engage fans with athlete’s by putting Twitter handles on the bibs worn during the Olympic trials. (See the story here.) Since most Olympic athletes handle their own public relations (especially those in less popular sports), having easy access to their Twitter handles is a great tactic for communication with fans.

Twitter isn’t the only way fans will be hearing about athlete stories this summer either. An article posted on Mashable discussed how BumeBox will be integrating multiple platforms to allow fans to not only tweet competitors, but watch web based videos about their journeys. The article reads, “The webisodes are designed to help fans get to know the athletes they’ll probably be watching at this summer’s Olympics in London to learn more about their backstories, their journeys to the doorstep of sport’s highest stage and how they train.” Emotional appeals are something public relations professionals use to garner support and interest for their clients, and now those appeals can be created though a wider variety of media outlets.

This Olympics will host, in my opinion, the greatest ability for information exchange of any Games to date. The possibilities for fan involvement are almost limitless, and there is a “race” to see what combination of platforms will provide the best insight. As a tool, social media is creating opportunities previously only imagined. Let’s just hope that with so many different avenues, athlete’s aren’t overwhelmed by online expectations.

With the fracturing of media audiences, and endless information channels, it may become difficult for athletes to “keep up” with fan expectations. Even athletes with professional publicists may find themselves lost in this year’s engaged online community. It will be interesting to see if any athletes choose to “unplug” in order to keep their focus.