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The Olympics & Social Media Marketing

This week we’re looking at how Web technology is being used in the Beijing Olympics. In today’s post we check out how some of the world’s leading brands are using social media tools in their Olympics campaigns. Our first post discussed how online video will be a big part of this Olympics, which is great for consumers. The Web can also be a boon for brands too, when it comes to major sporting events.

The inspiration for this post comes from Marion Arathoon of livemint.com, who wrote an excellent article outlining how brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are deploying social media.

McDonald’s has come out with an “alternate reality game” called The Lost Ring. The aim of the game is to discover a hidden history to the Olympics, which involves adventures in ancient Greece, mysterious packages, heroines, and so on. The Lost Ring apparently has the backing of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). There’s an accompanying wiki and a YouTube site that has some very cinematic trailers, the first of which is embedded below:

It’s an ambitious social media marketing ploy by McDonald’s. While the McDonald’s logo and brand aren’t immediately apparent, the terms and conditions page indicates that it’s a subtle push to associate their brand with the Olympics “spirit”. Here’s what the T&C state: “McDonald’s is proud to sponsor The Lost Ring and bring the spirit of the Olympic Games to people around the world.”

Now For the Not-So-Subtle: Lenovo’s Athlete Blogs

Another example of social media and the Olympics is from computer manufacturer Lenovo, which has created blogs for about 100 Olympics athletes. Entitled Voices of the Olympic Games, in this case there is an explicit connection between the site and the brand. All the participating athletes were provided with “new Ideapad laptops and video cameras to capture their experiences.” Many of these blogs are hosted on Google’s Blogger.

Here’s an example, from Rachel Dawson of the USA Field Hockey Team, from her latest post Out and About in the Village. . .:

“…the village is thriving as new batches of athletes arrive daily. The chaos in the dining hall is a key indicator of the increase in athlete volume. In order to understand the capacity of the dining hall let me draw you a mental picture . . . combine 6 football fields (3 deep and 2 wide), then line the space with thousands upon thousands of tables, put in buffet style food stands and add one McDonalds café, and there you have the village dining hall. Needless to say, the dining hall is the prime location for socializing, culturizing, and simply people watching. Today, there was extra excitement at meal time as some big time athletes arrived – ehhh, maybe you have heard of Michael Phelps, or perhaps Roger Federer or how about Spanish tennis phenom, Rafael Nadal. Yes indeed, we saw all of them.”

Did you spot the McDonald’s mention? They are doing a great job already infiltrating the Olympics!

Other Social Media Marketing at the Olympics

Via livemint.com, who got the following information from marketing consultancy R3 Asia Pacific, here are further examples:

  • Panasonic’s photo contest, where consumers can upload photos within the subject of Olympics and vote for others’ photos on the website.
  • Samsung Electronics Co. started a video contest based on the torch relay theme.
  • China Mobile and video share portal Youku formed a platform called M-Zone, designed for “cheering for Olympics”.
  • FAW-Volkswagen Automobile Co. Ltd launched the Honk for China campaign. According to livemint, “Netizens who write about the torch relay passing through their town can link their posts with the FAW-VW’s official torch map website. They then receive a “honking badge” that allows them to compose a tune which visitors can play (honk). Bloggers who attract the most “honks” win prizes.”
  • Qingdao Haier Co. Ltd, in association with Baidu.com Inc., sponsored an Olympics online “love torch” relay.
  • Nike Inc. had a “creative community” for sharing creative works.
  • PepsiCo Inc.’s website celebrates “Everyone can be on the can for China” online activity around the Olympics. Consumers can upload pictures or articles about their love for China on websites such as 5a.com, Xiaonei.com, Taoao.com, Pocn.cn, Ipartment and 163.com.


Any major sporting event these days will attract big sponsors, and the Olympics has always been an event where global giants like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Kodak, et al can flaunt their wares. With social media, you could say that brands are just using the Internet to find ever more ingenious ways to promote their brand – and that the Olympics is just a prop for that. McDonald’s clever alternate reality game is proof of that. Lenovo’s ‘blog for schwag’ promotion for athletes is a more overt example.

Still, we think it’s good usage of social media tools and it shows just how far the Web has come that big brands are pumping money into it as part of their Olympics marketing. What do you think of these social media marketing efforts? What others have you come across?

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