Aug 15, 2012

Social Media and the London Olympics: A Success Story

"Sports events are inherently social" - Justin Osofsky, director of platform partnerships and operations at Facebook.


Before the Olympics in London began, there was a large buzz about the upcoming competition and some scintillating storylines like whether or not Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt would continue to dominate their respective disciplines. However, during this blog series our focus has been on the use of social media by spectators and athletes alike and how the games gave rise to one of the most advanced and impressive digital experiences any sporting event has ever spawned. It was downright impressive.


Even though the last installment of this Olympics and Social Media blog series discussed the more somber side to the all-inclusive interconnectivity of the games, it is time to discuss the positive impacts and truly global engagement. In real life dollars the game’s organizers are looking at an estimated $20 billion worth of new business to transverse the local economy in and around London as a direct result of the 2012 Olympics. A few other interesting tidbits of information:


  • 50 million total tweets about the Olympics for duration of event (Twitter estimate).
  • Usain Bolt’s 200 meter gold medal performance sparked nearly 80,000 tweets per minute.
  • 1 in 10 Americans registered at least one device through NBC’s online streaming platform.


All in all, it so happened that traditional and social media worked very well hand in hand for most of the Olympics, except on two fronts: for one there was the weird decision by NBC to not broadcast select events live on TV and the rather rudimentary issue of the 5+ hour time difference between our two continents. I mentioned in the very first blog of this series that Twitter and Facebook would break news on medals, records and controversies long before any of the traditional media would and that is exactly what caused the issue to begin with.


What’s more interesting and a prime example of social media’s vast potential is the way that even the negatives turned into a positive for NBC, the main stake holder in the media rights bonanza on our side of the pond. Because of pretty heavy demand in the first few days of competition for online access to the content the IT infrastructure became overworked and caused pretty lousy streams. In response the organic nature of social media spontaneously generated the now infamous #nbcfail Twitter tag that allowed frustrated users to vent their frustration. However, NBC properly analyzed the issue, taking the massive public response to heart and very quickly the streams stabilized, allowing millions of Americans to view any and all disciplines in at least standard definition.

Both in the US, as well as the UK, social media developed into a self sufficient global village that brought millions together around a common cause. The London Olympics will go down in history as a prime example how the online realm and social media, in particular, can serve as a platform for both commerce and entertainment.