I don’t know about you, but I am excited for the 2012 London Olympics to start Friday, July 27, a mere 3 (!) days away. A life-long, self-proclaimed sports addict, for me the Olympics are something special.
However, as someone studying the digital world, I also understand that the Games are a complicated, controlled event. That’s why I’ve been doing my research in preparation for their start. There’s a lot to know.
Beyond just when events take place, where I can watch them, what athletes I should really pay attention to, there are also numerous issues surrounding the Olympics, athletes, and the online world.
Olympics on Anyscreen?
This shouldn’t be news, but NBC has a huge contract to cover the Olympic Games in London. This means thousands of hours of coverage on TV, or online if you have an existing cable or satellite contract.
In all 1400 hours of sports will only be viewable on TV. Events featured in primetime every night will be tape delayed and will not be shown live online. NBC made this choice to avoid reduced TV advertising revenue. However, experts from CBS and the MLB argued in a New York Times article that it’s unnecessary (just look at what the NCAA did with coverage of the Men’s Division I Basketball Championship). And I argue learning the outcome of a match, game, or race through a social network is nothing compared to seeing it happen live.
You can keep track of when different events will be on TV through the TV Guide on NBCOlympics.com. The site also has online listings, the place to look for coverage of less popular sports or preliminary competitions. And if you are confused about the time change, use this handy map to find the time of an event in London in your local time. Just don’t pay too much attention to its rather archaic appearance (1999 anyone?).
Along with TV comes advertising. Since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics became the first to turn a profit, through advertising and sponsorship, that is what the Olympic Games have really focused on. Unruly Media has teamed up with MediaCom to rank all the Olympic commercials. They also made a pretty cool info graphic on the sponsor race to go viral.
Olympics Go Social
While social media was present during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Vancouver Olympics, London is going to be a whole different ball game. Expect a battle between Facebook and Twitter for social media gold. Facebook recently announced a partnership with NBC through which data from Facebook will help guide television coverage during the Games.
The Olympic Games Facebook page does a great job of sharing cool visuals. I hope it continues over the next few weeks. You can also check out the U.S. Olympic Committee or the London 2012 fan pages. (I’m excited to see both pages have no idea you can actually erase links from a draft post once Facebook has recognized them.)
(In other good news, the London Olympics also has a MySpace page. I’ve been waiting for that.)
Not to be outdone, Twitter also sees opportunities in the London Olympics. Hoping to improve its advertising revenue, an area that has always lagged behind competitor Facebook, Twitter is building a page devoted to the Games with specific corporate advertisements. A few people will spend 20 hours a day over the course of the Game populating the as yet unpublished page with tweets from athletes, fans, and more.
But the Twitter influence isn’t ending there. A team of MIT engineers created an algorithm that will light up the London Eye nightly based on the Twitter sentiment of that day. Through the algorithm, tweets about the Olympics are weighted a certain percentage positive or negative, and the overall total of the day dictates the color of the giant ferris wheel. (Yellow = positive)
Want to keep up to date on Twitter? The USOC has great lists of American athletes and National Governing Bodies. You can also follow the London organizing committee or the IOC. And NBC has a tweet tracker that allows you to filter by sports, athletes, and more. It will definitely help you sort through some of the noise.
The biggest and most interesting factor for social media in my mind is the International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines. As I mentioned, the Olympics put on premium on their brand sponsorships. Consider that the only people serving fries at the London Olympics will be McDonalds when the British are known for fish and chips. This sensitivity is carrying over into guidelines for social media posting as well as blogging, both for athletes and for the media.
While the IOC encourages individuals to post to social media networks and blogs, it lays out a number of restrictions and reserves the right to change the guidelines at any time. Athletes are allowed to make “first-person, diary-type” formatted postings and should not be assuming journalistic duties (a.k.a. reporting on event outcomes). The key is to make sure postings don’t come across as advertisements or as sponsored.
The Athlete Village is notoriously closed off to the media and other non-competitors, a factor that will carry over into postings online. Athletes are allowed to post pictures of themselves online, but not their surroundings or fellow athletes that haven’t given consent. Considering some of the infamous behavior in the Athlete Village, it seems likely that scandals occur related to pictures and other posts made by athletes.
While there certainly is much more to cover when it comes to the Olympics, all I have left to say is, “Let the games begin!”