As the echoes fade in the London 2012 stadium, time for a review of the London 2012 Social Scoreboard and the social media performance of the sponsor brands which it has been tracking for the last four months.
We’ll be producing a short report in due course but meanwhile here is a round-up of the changes we’ve seen.
It is estimated that around £ one billion to £ two billion will have been spent by the major sponsors on this year’s Olympics. Have they had good value?
When we started our daily tracking, 100 days ahead of the opening ceremony, our intention was to allow everyone to see how well these brands were activating their sponsorships, in social media terms at least. (And, of course, to showcase PRINT™ , our proprietary performance analysis)
The first trend we identified in our weekly analyses was that there were some clear early movers – among them P&G BMW and Cadbury – who seemed to be doing well. Within weeks, there were big changes in the rankings as others started to engage. Soon, all the top 10 spots had changed with one exception. That exception is P&G, which quickly established itself as one of the major players in this year’s ‘socialympics’ with its well-thought ‘Moms’ strategy.
Dedicated vs mainstream
A second strategic difference soon emerged. Some sponsors, like Thomas Cook, were using dedicated Olympics focussed channels with success, while others were adding Olympics content to their main sites and accounts – also with success. It remains a matter of debate as to which is the better approach. Our own conclusion is that there are advantages to both strategies and much will depend on the individual brand and its resources. It may be that a less well-known brand with limited resources should focus on its existing channels – but on the other hand, reaching out more specifically to an ‘Olympics’ audience may allow greater engagement. ‘You pays your money and you takes your choice’!
As the Olympic torch reached the UK, we launched the London Social Scoreboard, allowing everyone to interact directly with the daily ranking data – and allowing head-to-head comparisons to be made between sponsors. P&G still topped the list but new challengers emerged like BP, BA and Cisco. As more and more brands launched their activities, the rankings moved around, as anticipated.
Big Guns vs engagement
Over the next couple of months , the top 10 positions moved around a good deal and the different strategies of the leading brands played out .While leadership in the overall rankings changed, day by day, analysis of the Status and Potential rankings showed other, sometimes greater differences. Brand size, heritage and spend showed up as higher scores on the Status scale, reflecting the advantage of the big guns with their big budgets. But only a deliberate engagement strategy led to high Potential scores.
Too late…or nicely timed?
We began a series of weekly analyses for the Holmes Report and by the end of June, with one month to go, we were wondering if brands like McDonalds and EDF had left their moves too late – but within days, both brands announced and started Olympic campaigns in earnest. Both brands immediately benefitted from their greater engagement, rising quickly in the rankings, as did British Airways with its ‘Home Advantage’ campaign. What began to show at this stage however, was how well integrated the social aspect of sponsorship activation was with other more traditional aspects of marketing – or not. In time, EDF would show that its approach to integrating social was considerably superior to McDonalds.
Two weeks to go
With two weeks to go, all the leading brands began to up the ante. The social media landscape was so changed from when we started that we reviewed and reassessed every one of the brand sites, channels and accounts used to drive the scores on our scoreboard, including more mainstream ones.
Coca-Cola, British Airways and adidas now took the top spots with EDF also claiming a leading position, on the back of its Energy of the Nation’ Twitter-powered London Eye lightshow.
This highlighted a key difference in strategy. Those who established a dedicated Olympics presence early on benefitted from months of active engagement targeted at Olympics fans. Others, by holding on, benefitted from concentration of maximum effort just as wider consumer “Games Fever’ peaked.
One of the running stories at this Olympics , as always, was whether the ambush marketers would succeed in outperforming sponsor brands. As far as social media is concerned, there seems to be no real evidence of that. We compared adidas – a late starter in the ‘socialympics’ but the most experienced Games sponsor of all – with Nike, its well-heeled global rival. This showed that adidas out-performed in social media, especially in terms of PRINT™ ‘engagement’ criteria like Receptiveness and Interaction, despite Nike’s aggressive ‘LondonS’ ambush campaign.
And so to Rio
Already, with an eye on Rio 2016, some marketers have been asking whether the IOC could or should further tighten the rules around social media to prevent athletes, brands and Games visitors from ‘abusing’ sponsors’ rights. It is on these rights, of course, that the IOC and its member sports federations depend for their funding. So, any legal laxities have serious financial consequences.
It remains to be seen whether subsequent formal London 2012 Games analysis will show brands that they have lost out in some way in the ‘socialympics’ but my guess is absolutely not. It seems likely that social media, in the main, will prove to have been essentially amplifiers or accelerators of the broadcast and brand content created.
But by the same token, it surely will show that, for sponsor brands, it is up to them to make the social weather. Those that have actively engaged socially (and integrated social with their other activities) will surely be happy. Those that have not, need to ask why.
But trying to organise legally against the inevitable proliferation of social, user-generated platforms seems to miss the point. If London 2012 has shown anything, it is that the social tide is unlikely to ebb any time soon.
Where’s a modern day King Canute when you need him?
If you’d like a copy of our report, the London Social Olympics 2012, please write to us at [email protected]