Want In On The Olympics? Have A Seat

22 Jun

Ok, so I don’t have any clients with enough coin to consider advertising during the Olympics. But plenty of smaller businesses will look for a way to piggyback the games, perhaps using social media. And for them I have some free advice.

No. No way. Not a chance in hell.

Instead I’d tell them to take out their notepads and pay close attention. There will be no better opportunity to learn from the failures of others, find great new voices, and probably catch some killer athletic performances along the way.

It’s not that there won’t be a chance to capitalize on guerrilla marketing tactics using social media. The problem is that there will be too many chances.

The London games promise to be a break-through games for social media and the Internet in general. NBC is promising access to every event either by broadcast or streaming online. And the International Olympic Committee is touting unprecedented social media access to the athletes.

Nope, the problem isn’t access. It’s volume. To be blunt, there will be too much damn information flying around for an average marketer to have a chance in hell of being spotted, let alone remembered. Trying to get an average brand seen or thought of would be akin to holding book club in the middle of Times Square on New Years Eve. Good luck with that.

Stop and think a minute about the average home viewer of the Olympics in Barcelona 20 years ago. We had cable TV for multiple channels, and even services like AOL to provide an online channel for those who wanted to share the experience. But for most of us the level of interactivity consisted mostly of yelling at the TV.

As of today the London 2012 Olympics web site reports 696,000 Twitter followers and 398,000 Facebook fans (sorry I refuse to call them Likes). It offers a live stream of the torch relay and a growing library of video clips. And that’s with more than a month until the games start.

During the games we’ve been promised online chats and countless Twitter feeds from inside the athletes’ village. The athletes themselves are being encouraged to blog, tweet and otherwise post as much as they want, provided they aren’t promoting their own sponsors or slamming one of the official sponsors.

In the various venues, contrary to some early reports, everyone attending the games will be encouraged to post updates, images and video. The IOC is only drawing the line at trying to make money with your images or video. It’s a none too subtle reminder that after all, the games are a profit-making venture.

Wait, unprecedented access, an encouragement to share, all the world watching through non-stop coverage. Where’s the risk you ask? (Ok, you didn’t ask, but play along with me. Go ahead, ask. I’ll wait.) The result will be the proverbial firehose/drinking scenario.

Let’s use Twitter as an example. Sports fans love Twitter; just look at the recent Champion’s Cup match between Barcelona and Chelsea. Fans were sending 13,684 messages per second. Yes, per second. That’s for a sport with just one game in one venue and only two countries.

How crazy could it get during the Olympics? At the upcoming Canadian track and field qualifying event the athletes will have Twitter handles on their bibs. I’m sorry, but why?! And that’s just the tip of what I expect will be a slew of really dumb ideas. Not that people won’t send messages to the runners. But how could anyone exact value from the volume that will result?

I’m not saying Coke, Visa, and BP, among others, won’t get value for the millions they’ll spend on ad campaigns and online elements during the games. But I doubt that any company looking for a reasonable ROI will find success at the games. (Note that I avoided any puns about winning a gold medal.)

So, come July 27th, find a comfy seat in front of a TV, charge up the iPad or laptop and keep your smart phone handy. And by all means tweet, post to Facebook and yell at the TV. But take a pause long enough to congratulate yourself for not spending a dime trying to get your voice heard.