After seven years of detailed planning and extensive investment, the curtain has finally come down on the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Regarded by many observers as one of the most successful Games ever, London also showed some important new trends in relation to marketing, communications, social media, broadcasting and sponsor activation. The use of digital and social media has perhaps been of most significance as we look to the future.

London 2012 lived up to many of the its bid promises ranging from the innovative use of venues such as Horse Guards Parade and Greenwich Park to the declared aim of inspiring a generation through sport. The ‘promise’ also included the most extensive use of new media to showcase the Games to younger audiences.

The Social Olympics

LOCOG made extensive use of social media to market the Games and engage with fans. achieved 109 million unique users making 431 million visits and viewing 4.73 billion pages on the site, with a peak load serving over 100,000 web pages per second. The Paralympics saw 30 million visits, 9.5 million unique users and 220 million page views.

At the same time YouTube was streaming video of the Games in 65 countries, and reported delivering 231 million streams. Here in the UK the BBC gave viewers live, simple access to every sport at every venue every day of the Games. And audiences lapped it up. Over a 24-hour period on the busiest Olympic days, Olympic traffic to exceeded that for the entire BBC coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

US broadcaster NBC saw similar success with London 2012 proving to be
the most watched TV event in US history. On the digital front, NBC reported 63 million live video steams, compared to 14 million in Beijing, and viewership among teenagers in the US was up 27 per cent from Beijing, with girls accounting for most of the gain – a huge encouragement to the International Olympic Committee. The Paralympic Games also enjoyed unparalleled spectator and broadcasting results with Channel 4, the UK’s host broadcaster, achieving its best peak audience figures in over 10 years for the Paralympic opening ceremony, which attracted more than 11 million viewers.

In addition, Twitter estimates there were more than 150 million tweets about the Olympic Games during the two
weeks after the opening ceremony.

These numbers tell us that London can properly take the crown as the most watched and first truly social media Games.

Far from acting as a distraction from traditional TV viewing, digital and social media helped consumers to exercise choice, become more engaged and to celebrate, commiserate and converse together.

London 2012 also witnessed some really engaging sponsor brand activation that went a long way to enhancing the experiences of fans and spectators. The Olympic Park became a real centre of spectator activity and in particular BA’s Park Live initiative gave a focus for thousands of fans without venue tickets who still wanted to celebrate and experience the Games.

Rio 2016: a New Chance to Connect

So while traditional media, print and broadcast, remained crucial to a positive and creative communications strategy, London 2012 confirmed that the digital revolution is now fully at the heart of sports events and their ability to reach new and younger audiences. The global sports industry will have learned lessons from this and as the Olympic (and football) focus shifts towards Brazil it will be fascinating to see how this is applied and opportunities grasped in a new, emerging and dynamic market environment.

As the first Games in South America, Rio 2016’s potential to reach and connect with millions of new sports consumers can be compared to Beijing 2008, which had similar brand and business growth opportunities. Brazil has the advantage of combining a recognised international destination with spectacular sporting traditions and a dynamic fan culture that offers international brands a strong and diverse communications platform.

Of Brazil’s 192 million population, almost 47 per cent are under the age of 19 and Brazil’s burgeoning middleclass has meant greater disposable incomes and consumption.

This dramatic rise in purchasing power has led to a massive increase in TV households, causing the media rights and advertising industries to boom, but Brazil’s youthful population means the way sports content is consumed is also evolving.

According to IEG, Brazil’s sports sponsorship market is set to expand by 120 per cent over the next five years with more brands signing multi-year deals. Sports rights-holders, event organisers and brands in territories like Brazil will have learned much from the success of London 2012 and will want to see how this can best be replicated in the environment of their own marketplace.

Great communications will lie at the heart of this process and utilising the power of digital and social media has never been more important in reaching new, demanding and younger audiences. It has been a healthy summer for the global business of sport and those of us lucky enough to be involved can look forward to exciting times ahead.

Mike Lee OBE
Chairman, VERO
88 SportBusiness International • No.183 • 10.12