Both the NBC iPhone app and the m.nbcolympics.com site are effectively packing a ton of information into a handset format yet keeping it visually appealing and editorially clear. I can see that some app reviewers deservedly decry the lack of language versioning, but I like a design that uses vertical and lateral axes to compact the news in a colorful way. The main screen has a lateral scroll through a marquee of lead stories and a vertical scroll through the latest headlines, medal counts, upcoming schedule.
But I would have liked access to a live feed of video. Like the rest of the world I can't quite fathom why NBC is being so stingy about access. Are they really trying to concentrate their audiences into that frustrating assemblage of highlights in prime time? My Olympics iPhone app is still showing day-old victories as "Top Stories."
I am also frustrated by sluggish video access and videos that sometimes fail. There have been way too many tech glitches on these mobile sites. One banner ad for iPhone app sponsor AT&T clicked through to the Mercedes-Benz landing page. For Olympic junkies, this is one case where the mobile Web implementation probably is better than the app. The long scroll of highlights and schedules actually works better for at-a-glance updates than the more polished app, which uses buttons and tabs to organize the information.
The mixed bag of NBC's mobile implementation carries through to its advertisers. Sometimes I feel as if the uneven ad executions I see here demonstrate just how deeply we are between two worlds in the media transition. The gulf between the sponsors who are truly invested and those who are just riding along is painfully obvious. Two sponsors I have seen in the iPhone app seem to get mobile. The Coca-Cola mini-site that some ads click into is a deep set of multimedia assets and athlete images and information. It has downloadables as well as a full library of the best Coke ads, profiles of athletes and a link to an even cooler Coke "Cheer" soundboard app of crowd and sporting event sounds. The content is integrated with the event and extends the experience.
Also in the game is Visa. They have the right idea in offering a sweepstakes entry with a trip to the Olympics for life and they try to offer Olympics-related content. But oops, at least when I used it, the mobile landing site popped error codes left and right from the iPhone app while they worked fine from the mobile Web. When the content did work, Visa maintained its longstanding tradition of highlighting athlete's stories. Here we have a huge trove of videos and photos of the participants. Both Coke and Visa (especially Visa), seems to understand that the mobile audience will drill and drill into content if the topic interests them.
The car companies, Mercedes Benz and Toyota, seem asleep at the wheel or maybe just hitch-hiking a ride. Their banner creative is bland in the app and continues to be bland in the landing sites. Both are unremarkable car feature breakdowns. Is this as exciting as driving gets nowadays?
At least BMW's prominent placement on the mobile Web site has a theme: the joy of driving. While it may not map especially against the Olympics themselves, at least it is a hook that unifies the banners and the video pre-roll creative. The theme follows through on a landing page and it draws the user in to find out more.
But overall the mobile marketing side of the Olympics (at least in NBC's iterations) are about as patchy as the content side. The potential here is staggering. What other mass media event goes on for weeks and throughout the work day? It is hard to imagine an opportunity that is more tailormade to exploit all of this platform's always-on, always-there strengths. Forget about the lament about the poor use of mobile marketing for the Super Bowl. We are still waiting for mobile publishers and marketers to nail the landing -- even on an event that should have been a can't-miss mobile.