London 2012, Rio 2016 and Digital

I was recently interviewed by Ashley for his Masters thesis…

Q1: In the years leading up to the games how hard was it to plan New Media strategies for channels such as i.e social/mobile as these channels were still in the infancy?

For content strategy it was actually easy. Finn Concannon our Social Media Lead was clear from start we would focus on key social/mobile channels and we had a consistent set of channels on which our campaigns could run. So planning became a matter of understanding the channels and the audience reach. For example when I launched each new Mascot Game online or a new Mascot Movie was released in the cinema we knew we could only plan around twitter and facebook campaigns as that is where we were building the audience.

The ever changing landscape of platforms technology platforms were more of a challenge. We ended up having to deliver a number of platform refreshes as suppliers pulled technologies or changed strategies. A small example, the programming interface allowing users to tweet and or facebook post from the Mascot Games changed twice after the launch of the website.

Q2: What were your main challenges with New Media campaigns at London 2012?

For me the main challenge was ensuring that each campaign stakeholder had their requirements met while still delivering world class products that engaged users. The stakeholder group grew rapidly, LOCOG itself grew 10 times larger from the time I joined. The organisation were diverse in their culture from sports governing bodies, government agencies, the mayor’s office, management consultants and sponsors. To give another example. Mascots online could be dressed in various sporting outfits. Each accessory needed 14 different sign offs from three different organisations before it could be included.

Q3: Can you share your view on how you feel the role of New Media has evolved at Olympic events? The success of London 2012 shows clear demand for apps and social media means Rio must take it to a new level surely?

At LOCOG we had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented people to ensure our deliveries were are success across all aspects of the Games communications not just digital . In my opinion what made London 2012 different was having New Media firmly part of the Communications team which meant that our content strategy was always relevant. Campaigns such as #savethesuprise was the direct result of being firmly in Comms, understanding digital as well as the motivation of the audience.

At the end of the day the Olympics and Paralympics showcases the emotions and capabilities of the host nation to the rest of the world. My advice to Rio 2016 and all future Games with regards to digital is to define the campaigns and engage the relevant audience on their terms. That might means Spectators require more mobile channels in the future but Athletes will always need an email campaign. What underpins it all is the right content strategy.

Q4: How do you think London 2012 New Media campaigns performed against traditional media channels such as TV, Press etc?

I don’t have hard numbers to hand to answer this question.

During the Games. I don’t think I fully appreciated how the behavior of the UK would change. I had expected the UK to stop as it does in England during an international football match but what surprised me is to what extent people were watching coverage live on television at home – rather than in the office or in the pub. In terms of digital this meant a huge amount of family related dual screening. Although the biggest day for the main website was Monday after the Super Saturday weekend. The Mascots biggest day was during the Opening Ceremony, which suggest to me that families got together to watch and younger members controlled the digital screen. Not something that I had predicted or planned.

Essentially the summer Olympics is a TV event and Digital is a a supporting media. This will continue till the broadcast rights change. At that point a range of fascinating new range of opportunities will arise around real time engagement.

Q5: Can you share your views on the LOCOG sponsors and the influence these may/or may not have played in your campaigns? Do you think Sponsors could have done more/less to deliver a successful games?

The range of sponsors makes it impossible to comment on them as a group. There are several tiers of sponsors. Global sponsors are the heart of Games consistency. They create products that move from Games to Games. They regularly re-employ people from one Games to deliver the next. For me these were the easiest Sponsors to work with as they had processes in place to adopt.

Q6: Which New Media channels or strategies do you think Rio will use to deliver a successful games?

Each nation is different the New Media strategy that worked for London 2012 can’t be translated like a cookie cutter. Digital engagement is similar across the UK and primarily working in English gave us an advantage. Rio 2016 will benefit from a staying true to a single unified Content Strategy delivering its message.

I am expecting the people of Brazil to show the last two summer Olympics and Paralympic hosts how a nation actually parties. Impromptu carnivals and street parties, this won’t be nation watching sports on TV. I expect much more use of location based digital applications and short video sharing by the people of Brazil which will outstrip any digital campaigns by official channels.