Almost Mobilizing The Olympics

NBC is getting hammered from all sides for its handling of the Olympics. From the usual cries of U-S-A jingoism to the dearth of live-event feeds and content-sharing with other news outlets, the media company can't catch a break. While I am not averse to piling on any big media brand when I can, I think the mobile coverage and the brand advertising I have seen on the mobile iterations are at worst mixed. Maybe the wild unevenness of the content and the marketing supporting it is a good barometer of the half-evolved state of brand advertising on mobile. This should be an event where both publisher and marketer put their best foot forward. Instead, the Olympics effort from both content and ad sides is something less than gold-medal.  

Both the NBC iPhone app and the 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.

9 comments about "Almost Mobilizing The Olympics".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Kim Dushinski from Mobile Marketing Profits, February 18, 2010 at 3:53 p.m.

    And...their text alerts are not what I expected.

    igned up to get text alerts about some of my favorite athletes thinking it would send me a message telling me when my favorite athlete would be competing so I didn't miss it. ("Apolo Ohno is skating tonight. Tune in at 8 PM Mtn to see him.")

    No. Instead I got a message telling me he won BEFORE I could see it on TV.

    Thankfully the Reply STOP function worked so I didn't have any more spoilers alert me.

  2. Greg Hickman, February 18, 2010 at 4:07 p.m.

    Steve and Kim I totally agree with both of you. I signed up for many text alerts as well and I get bombarded more than the max number in my confirmation.

    Additionally, I can't believe brands dropped the ball when sponsoring some of these messages. As you mentioned Coke and BMW at least had their mobile presence laid out. Audi...All I have to say is if you're going to drive people to your site from text based should probably have a mobile optimized site.

    Although mobile is fairly new to many...Don't dive in without doing your homework. For the agency that recommended a link to a non-mobile friendly website from text based alerts...Please, Please don't make that mistake again. It doesn't reflect well on the brand or the consumer experience.

  3. Naushad Huda, February 19, 2010 at 4:12 a.m.

    Greg and Kim - couldn't agree with you more. I too had the challenges you mentioned with the texts and to get yet another URL from a high profile brand that doesn't have a mobile landing page. . .i should seriously start a list! mobile is not the web; it's its own for it!

  4. Joy Liuzzo from TBD, February 19, 2010 at 9:31 a.m.

    I agree that we've seen a lot of execution fails with mobile and the Olympics but I look at things in a slightly different way. This is the first time we're seeing integrated campaigns and mobile getting face time in commercials and breaks on a large scale. Consumers are able to experiment with interacting with brands and content and discover what works best for them - apps, SMS, Mobile Internet, Mobile Video. The Olympics threw mobile into the deep end and yes, it's still learning to swim, but the point is, it's in the pool now. At the risk of sounding like an over enthusiastic cheerleader, I'm going to give a big 'whoohoo' and keep shouting encouragement.

  5. Michael Kremin from NeoGen Digital, February 19, 2010 at 10:44 a.m.

    I have been disappointed in the mobile web site and the iPhone application. The mobile web site is overwhelmed when you try to load it or click on links during the televised performances. Clearly, server capacity or bandwidth is insufficient.

    The iPhone app is difficult to navigate. For example, while watching the men's free skate event, I tried to access the scores/standings of athletes throughout the event. The app would simply take me to the "schedule" and show a box stating that the event was "in progress". No real time stats - major failure.

    Neither the app nor the web site were updated in real or near-real time. I could get the scores and standings faster from other media.

    This was not NBC's first mobile foray with the Olympics. I do not understand how they could neglect the opportunity to provide a high value experience for fans on the mobile handset. The whole experience is half-baked and seems to be an NBC marketing after thought.

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 20, 2010 at 3:10 p.m.

    Mobile is still young whether postage stamp viewing has its drawbacks or not. Smart people out there will guarantee improvements over time. Not so sure about NBC coverage.

  7. Esther Surden from E. Surden Associates, February 21, 2010 at 11:39 a.m.

    I don't think NBC's regular website coverage of the Olympics was that great either: hard to find specific videos, where were the live feeds? Just a confusing picture all over. If they can't get the Internet right, what's the hope for mobile? Am I too critical?

  8. waqar qureshi, March 22, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.

    I have been keen interested in internet marketing for many years and wants to get more information for my work of <a href="">braindumps</a> so that i might success in my work
    ?Help me if you can.

  9. waqar qureshi, March 22, 2010 at 5:06 a.m.

    I have been keen interested in internet marketing for many years and wants to get more information for my work of [url=]braindumps[/url]
    so that i might success in my work ?Help me if you can.

Next story loading loading..