It’s not uncommon for ad wonks to trade in hyperbole. Call it an occupational hazard. But when Brian Yamada, chief innovation officer of VML, ad agency of the International Olympics Committee, recently dubbed Rio 2106 the largest social media event ever, it’s hard not to believe the hype.
According to GlobalWebIndex, the London-based firm that provides the ad-biz with detailed market research into the behaviors of online consumers, 85 percent of the Summer Games’ expected 3.6 billion viewers will watch with a mobile device in their hands. Those “second screens” mean a mega-boost to reach, impressions and engagement not only for Rio 2016, but also for the many brands that happen to be tagging along. Now toss in the rabid fans around the globe who rely on social media to engage with one another as the Games progress, and the conversation about the Olympics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like is, well, #Gi-freaking-nourmous.
All of this, and we’ve yet to mention the athletes themselves. Over 11,000 have poured into Rio for the Games, each, no doubt, with his or her own multiple social media accounts, and now with access to Snapchat, Persicope and Facebook Live. Rio 2016 has instituted strict rules for athlete’s use of the live video platforms, partly to protect them from themselves. For the athletes, a misstep on social media can be as dangerous to their medal hopes as a tweaked hammy. Remember the two athletes who were expelled from the London Olympics for making poor choices online? Neither do we. And that’s the point. It’s bad for them, and particularly bad for their sponsors. That’s why big Olympic advertisers such as Visa actually train their athletes in the proper use of social media. Hopefully a part of that training is how to negotiate the dangerous waters of the IOC’s Rule 40 which prohibits the athletes from promoting non-Olympic sponsors during the period of the Games. That sticky wicket has caused headaches for more than one Olympic medal hopeful, including U.S. swimming hero Michael Phelps whose pose next to a Louis Vuitton bag (a non-sponsor) was leaked online. Uh, … oops.
So, have your phone in hand and tablet at the ready? Fingers and thumbs properly limbered up? Perfect. It’s time. Let the Games—and the Tweets—begin!