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Olympics was not so social after all

It’s a bit of a shocker! The AT Kearney study on the use of social media by brands during the opening ceremony of London 2012 Summer Olympics showed that getting social was not really a top of the mind activity for the major sponsoring brands during the event. In fact it was expected to be a ‘Twitter Olympics’ but the figures from the study seem to say otherwise. The Olympic Advertisers Study shows a nearly complete rejection of social media by advertisers, with 50 percent of the spots making no reference to the digital world whatsoever. Only 10 percent of advertisers included Facebook, Twitter or YouTube links to their campaigns.

Despite the popularity of the digital medium, and social networks, the brands played safe and remained on traditional media to attract their audiences. Observed Jim Singer, study sponsor and partner in A.T. Kearney’s Consumer and Retail Industries Practice, “For an event that was billed as the ‘Twitter Olympics,’ it was populated by a set of sponsors that rarely left the purview of conventional marketing and barely dipped into social media. Advertising by these mega-brands seems to be sticking to an analog go-to-market mindset in an increasingly digital-community minded world.”

The study had analysed primetime television advertising content during the 2012 Opening Ceremonies across six continents, captured 246 television spots placed by 140 brands across eight countries. Interestingly, global advertisers were more social than local ones, but even they were not up to the mark. “The study awarded higher rankings to global advertisers according to three metrics around digital media — but it failed to find a gold medal winner,” added Singer. The study measured the level of social media integration in the ads across three metrics including the extent that digital media was integrated into the advertisement shown, the integration of that ad in the referenced digital media, and the level of viewer engagement the digital media sparked.

Despite all the talk digital initiatives by the brands, the study showed that the actual response to digital marketing is indeed very lacklustre. For instance out of four McDonald’s ads, only its Polish spot contained any digital content — the others were two U.S. spots and one in Brazil — this one referring viewers to a website featuring Olympic promotional merchandise. Not exciting at all.

In cases where there were some digital content, the effort seemed so much as an afterthought rather than a part of a well thought out digital media strategy. Like Visa Gold; it did include a Facebook and Twitter reference in it advertising, but these efforts failed because the brand’s last post had updated its cover photo to an Olympic-themed photo taken the day before the Opening Ceremony; but after this the company ignored its page, failing to post any relevant ads, not responding to any consumer posts and not sharing any fresh or timely material.

The study shows that of the 50 percent of advertisers who made any reference to the digital world whatsoever, four-fifths only posted a URL link to their brand’s website. “This digital disconnect is all the more surprising in light of the extensive use of social media references by many of these same advertisers during previous sporting events, such as the Super Bowl…For an event as multi-layered and fast-paced as the Olympics, it’s all in the timing. Clearly, the advertisers need to start looking at communication channels differently,” informed Christina Heggie, senior analyst and study leader, AT Kearney.

Earlier this year, A.T. Kearney had conducted a Social Media study that had shown a sharp acceleration in company-consumer interactions through social media. It suggested that social media marketing is not only here to stay, but is an initiative that needs to be followed by companies as quickly and creatively as possible. “Despite the messaging put forth by marketers, people don’t think twice about how they communicate — only what they are communicating, with whom they are communicating, and what response they expect,” concluded Singer. Apparently the brands sponsoring the Summer Olympics this year did not think so.

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