DiGuido on Digital Olympics – Media Life Interview

The digital challenge that is London
Viewers will expect digital and social media elements in ad campaigns
By Diego Vasquez
July 3, 2012

Since the last Summer Olympics four years ago, the world of social media has exploded. People now follow their favorite athletes on Twitter, post about them on Tumblr and compile boards devoted to them on Pinterest. And, in another difference from four years ago, they’re doing a lot of that on their mobile phones or tablet devices. For advertisers, that means a real challenge heading into these Games. They must respond to this newly interactive world with campaigns that resonate not just on television but across digital and social media as well. That’s led analysts to dub this the first truly digital Olympics. In addition to the new media aspects of advertisers’ campaigns, NBC will air every Olympic event live online as it happens, with 3,500 hours of streaming coverage, a first for the Games. Al Diguido, former chief executive officer at the agency Zeta Interactive, talks to Media Life about why Olympic fans are so digitally engaged, what advertisers’ biggest challenges will be, and how they’re already engaging people on social media.

How does the Olympics compare to other sporting events in terms of digital and social media campaigns by advertisers?

This year’s Olympics has the potential to be the first to set a standard for digital and social media marketing. Only the Super Bowl has greater attention from a digital and social media standpoint.

The challenge for marketers is much more than engaging the mass audience on game day. With the Olympics, the potential to engage their customers on a daily basis for multiple weeks is unprecedented. This is a gargantuan challenge to keep messaging fresh, relevant and entertaining for this extended period.

We have all experienced the boredom of seeing the sponsor run the same campaign over and over and over again. The end result of this tedium is that we think poorly about the brand. The 2012 London Olympics will no doubt be studied weeks after the Olympics to determine which brand did the best job of keeping the largest audience of their customers and prospect engaged throughout the games.

Achieving this gold medal status from a marketing standpoint will demand incredible innovation and ingenuity. Brands will need to make decisions based on the ebb and flow of the stories that make up the Olympic buzz. All of these real-time decisions will determine which brands will accomplish the goals that they are striving for.

To be clear, it is not only the athletes that are being tested on a world stage. Never before have marketers faced with multiple consumer channels and challenges been required to be at the top of their interactive game. It will be fun to watch on every level.

What are some ways that advertisers will leverage the Olympics in their social media activities in the coming weeks?

Marketers believe that this may be the most connected Olympics in the history of the games. Most marketers understand that their customers and prospects will be leveraging their mobile devices to keep in contact with what is happening at the games at all times.

While they may not have the time each day to watch every waking hour of broadcast coverage, they can still connect with real-time event updates and features on athletes competing in the games.

Like other Olympic sponsors, Samsung is offering real-time event results via mobile devices and leveraging their “genome project” that provides insight on the commonalities of the user with Olympians–lots of games and quizzes to keep the social community engaged with the brand.

Coke has a wide variety of apps and other interactive strategies around their “eight pack of athletes.” Users can upload pictures and send best wishes to their favorite athletes. On Facebook, users can download the Coca-Cola Olympic torch tour. Coke is also providing users with a musical strategy, behind-the-scenes footage on the “London Beat” [documentary].

Most marketers are extending their broadcast and on-package messaging into social media venues, understanding that in order to keep their brand top of mind with consumers they must stretch beyond broadcast messaging into the social media realm.

What social media opportunities are available to advertisers now that were not two and four years ago?

If we think back to four years ago, the social media channel was just beginning to engage with a consumer audience of scale. Most of these media opportunities were in their infancy. Beyond Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook, there were relatively few venues of size.

Today, Pinterest and Tumblr continue to grow in popularity. The opportunity to reach a wider group of consumers across a greater group of social communities is definitely the biggest difference between this Olympics and the last one.

Marketing folks are much more understanding of how to engage consumers within the social media channels than they were four years ago. Most believed that their social media strategy was nothing more than a “billboard” during the last Olympics. Creative directors, editors, designers are all working on new and innovative ways to engage, entertain and inform via social media channels this time around.

The channel having grown measurably in its importance as part of the marketing mix now demands full attention and focus in order to leverage the tools and strategies that will engage the social media visitor with meaningful and enticing content.

Unlike broadcast channels, social media provides the marketer with a real-time understanding on whether content is being consumed and/or acted upon. It is that real-time data that keeps the marketer moving forward to optimize content with social media members to drive the engagement and transaction desired.

How will the expanded digital reach of the Olympics, with every event being streamed live online, impact advertisers?

Once again, this live video streaming of events will challenge marketers to build programs that extend their brand sponsorship online so as to capture and engage the consumer in real time.

Gone are the days that a network Olympic sponsorship would suffice in terms of reaching a high concentration of the desired audience. There will be no embargoed content and/or news. If Michael Phelps wins a medal, the world will know when it happens.

As such, a sponsor or marketer needs to make sure that his brand is represented at those real-time special moments when the world stops for a moment to cheer and/or congratulate an athlete.

It means that marketers must realize that for many of their consumers, the streaming video that they receive on their telephone, iPad or desktop may be their primary viewing venue. As such, it’s best for the marketer to provide their own “digital framing” around those streams to stay top-of-mind for these broadcasts. It will be interesting to see the impact that such real-time video streaming with have on late-night broadcast audience and ratings.

Do sports advertisements employ digital and social media more than other genres? Why or why not?

Sports content, and more specifically Olympic content, has a way of crossing so many diverse socio-economic consumer segments that it has the ability to generate huge attention, interest and engagement with mass audiences. Spectator sports in general–NBA Finals, Super Bowl, Indy 500, etc.–all drive huge audience numbers in all media channels.

Those who have the greatest affinity to sports events also represent some of the most information-ravenous consumers in the marketplace. They scour the internet for the latest information and insight. Within social media venues they assemble in record numbers based on their intense loyalty and passion for their teams and/or favorite athletes.

In order for the marketer to break through and be viewed as credible in brand positioning, they must engage, entertain and incent consumers leveraging the full digital and social media toolkit. For sports fans to become engaged with a brand, that brand needs a cool factor, a campaign that goes well beyond being innovative and entertaining. Sports fans want to associate with brands that are a cut above all others in terms of their brand appeal.

Brands that engage and entertain with innovative messaging online and with social media channels have the best chance of building preference with their audience.

Advertising within sports programming is attempting to create the same fierce loyalty and passion for a brand as the consumer has for their favorite team and/or athlete. Such a connection between brand and consumer is rarely seen in other genres.

You say that companies will get an afterglow effect from their online messaging to a community of interested Olympic viewers. What does that mean? Can you give an example?

Smart marketers know that that their customers are using multiple channels to connect with content, whether it is the Olympics and/or any other type of information and/or content.

In order to sustain brand awareness and build brand preference a brand needs to extend their reach to every possible intersection between content and the consumer that they can, cost effectively and efficiently. They can ill-afford to miss a brand-building opportunity because they have decided that the online or social media venue is “not as important” as other customer channels.

The reverse is true–brands that do a solid job of engaging with their consumers online will gain a greater affinity when the consumer views a consistent brand message via broadcast venues.

For example, Visa’s beautiful “Go World Change” montage of Olympic highlights, whether it is displayed on YouTube and/or during a network broadcast, reminds the consumer of all of the great brand attributes around the Visa brand. Each ad at every touch point builds onto the other to create a powerful 360-degree platform of messaging that builds affinity and loyalty to the brand.

Marketers are searching for the optimal way to optimize messaging at each venue to build greater affinity and staying power for their brand post-Olympics.

What are some of the most innovative digital/social media ad campaigns you’ve seen for the Olympics?

So far there really haven’t been any campaigns that have been all that special or memorable. My sense is that brands don’t want to “show their cards” as yet, from a competitive standpoint.

I hope to see campaigns that leverage cross-channel awareness, or brands that run network TV spots and drive viewers to the social media channels and vice-versa. Brands that do a great job on Facebook, Twitter, etc., tying back to network coverage of the events.

From my vantage point, it doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense for a marketer to keep both of these strategies–television and online–in silos in terms of measuring impact and performance. I want to see marketers weave the two together and win as a result of an integrated and coordinated execution that shows a real understanding of the fact that it is one consumer viewing from multiple channels.

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