Q&A: Mobile Will Dominate Summer Olympics

Even before NBC announced that it would stream all 32 Olympic sports live, marketers have been scrambling to make sure their messaging will be able to compete in every digital event. But mastering the first fully digital Olympics won’t be easy, and the London games this summer will be the best measure yet of truly integrated strategies. Marketing Daily caught up with consultant Al Diguido, former CEO of Zeta Interactive, to find out which brands will get medal-worthy ROI.

Q: So plenty of the usual suspects are pouring huge money into traditional Olympic sponsorship, including GE, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Visa and Samsung. And they’ve had sophisticated digital strategies for past events, like the 2010 games. What’s different?

A: It’s very exciting. While it’s been true that broadcasters haven’t had a hammerlock on Olympic audiences for some time, what’s special this year is that the whole flavor of digital and social has changed dramatically. This time around, it’s a channel marketers can’t overlook. The reach is massive, so is the engagement, and the level of accountability and data is at an all-time high.

Q: How has the marketing mindset changed?

A: Both marketers and broadcasters are finally backing off from that either/or thinking, that people are either watching TV or going online, but not doing both. Now, NBC -- as well as every other marketer -- are very aware that people will consume content on TV and online. It’s the same person, but the experiences are different. So how do you effectively link your brand? Marketers are working to develop unique flavors for each channel. The point is that it’s a way to throw out a hook, and get people to engage beyond the stats of who won which medal, and feel empathy and compassion for the brand. Samsung, with its games and quizzes, for example, is really tapping into the whole DNA of social media. Coke is really focusing on mobile. 

Q: How important will mobile be?

A: Very. When people are on the run and during the workday, mobile will be the primary way they interact with the games this summer. What site they use is less important. If they are engaged, people will sign up for alerts from ESPN or the New York Times or whatever, but the way they get them will be on their phones. 

Q: Some people would say that all the digital access dilutes the games’ impact. True?

A: No. You’ve got the world’s attention. For marketers, this is kind of a tipping point, though: How well are you going to extend your message out into those other worlds?

Q: Will social conversations drive viewership?

A: I don’t know. It’s more likely with the Olympics than with a shorter event, like a single playoff game, because excitement can build over time. A storyline will start to build that may lend itself to people saying, 'What’s gonna happen tonight?’ But that has to be engineered. The networks will have to drive people back to TV.

Q: So why don’t TV programmers advertise more on Facebook?

A: It’s silly that they haven’t done that yet, in the same way it’s silly that magazines don’t use the Web to drive traffic back to magazines. They’re all talking to one consumer, with multiple touchpoints. But that part hasn’t sunk in yet with marketers. This consumer is going to keep using those touchpoints. The question should be, how can I optimize that?

Q: Will these games be watched and buzzed-about, or a dud?

A: It’s all in the control of the networks. Globally, it will be a really big Olympics, and the brands and marketing will carry it. But in the U.S., I’m not so sure. The media has been so consumed with the elections this year, and there is such an obsession about the global economy, unemployment, Syria. For the Olympics to be a kick-ass event, the games have to rise above all that. It’s a marketing challenge.

If a strong storyline doesn’t emerge early on, they’re going to have problems.

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