Super Bowl Gets Social Media Command Center

Big sporting events are natural generators of social media energy, but they’re also fraught with peril; put dozens of mouthy athletes, tens of thousands of vocal fans, and millions of opinionated viewers together in virtual space, and any number of things can go wrong. No surprise, then, that the organizers and advertising sponsors for big sporting events are increasingly concerned to control -- or at least attempt to positively guide -- social media associated with their investment.

Thus the upcoming Super Bowl, scheduled to take place in Indianapolis on February 5, will be outfitted with its own “social media command center,” courtesy of Raidious, an Indianapolis-based digital marketing firm which has been chosen to operate the online nerve center of the big game. Installed in a 2,800-square-foot loft space incorporating over a mile of Ethernet cable in the Morrison Opera House on South Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis, the task force will be responsible for monitoring social media and responding to questions, complaints, and comments posted by the 150,000-strong crowd of fans who will shortly be descending on the city. This includes providing directions and suggestions of activities around the town, along with emergency information, should it be needed.

The social media team -- which consists of 16 Raidious staff members plus dozens of student volunteers from Ball State University, Butler University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis -- will be divided into two teams, with one handling social media management and moderation, and the other creating content promoting and reporting on various events associated with the Super Bowl. There will always be around 20 people on call for about 15 hours per day, monitoring social media and posting content to sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

As noted, organizers of big sporting events have realized that it’s crucial to have a social media strategy -- including substantial “boots on the ground” (hands on the keyboard?) capabilities to enact it. With the London Olympics scheduled for July 27-August 12, the London Organising Committee has issued guidelines governing social media use by 70,000 unpaid volunteers to ensure security as well as protect the commercial interests of sponsors. According to the guidelines issued by the Organising Committee, volunteers are forbidden to disclose any information about their own personal role, their location, or any information about athletes, celebrities, or visiting dignitaries.

On the athletes’ side, the International Olympic Committee is looking to leverage social media drive engagement, in part by encouraging competitors to “post, blog and tweet their experiences” during the London Olympics. But the IOC is also at pains to protect the commercial interests of broadcast and merchandising partners. Accordingly, athletes won't be allowed to use social media, including Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs, for advertising, selling products, or sharing videos from the Olympic venues. The IOC instructions read: “Postings, blogs or tweets should be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist. Participants and other accredited persons cannot post any video and/or audio of the events, competitions or any other activities which occur at Olympic venues.” In other words, people who want to actually see what athletes did will have to tune in on TV, or an associated online property.

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