Communication lessons from #Rio2016

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For more than 100 years, the modern Olympic Games have been celebrated as a testament to human physical achievement and power. On another scale the games are also an opportunity for peaceful cooperation between nations. They’re also a huge global marketing opportunity. With the world watching, the right mix of communications can make or break an Olympic sponsor. With the large audience and participants involved in the international event, there has been some form of controversy in nearly every Olympic year since 1906.

5591054268_40c2a4b3ce_mEven before Rio had its official opening ceremony there was controversy surrounding it. One such problem affecting the Rio Olympics — not to mention the rest of Brazil — is the spread of the Zika virus, which was declared a public health emergency earlier this year. There was the slumping Brazilian economy and let’s not forget the water tests that showed the public that Rio’s Olympic waters were heavily polluted with human sewage; not to mention an alarming number of disease-causing viruses and bacteria that were present. These were all handled with poise by the respective Olympic representatives.

After years of preparation, what a party so far: the venues have turned out to be amazing, despite the original hiccups.  The sport has come first (mostly), Rio2016 is now in day 5. Listed are 5 communication lessons we’ve learned and reviewed so far.

1. Practice makes perfect

The opening ceremony had to be planned just like any event. Brazil kicked off this year’s Olympics with a low-budget opening ceremony that was full of colour and a Samba bear. Throw in some dancing and some preaching about environmentalism for good measure.

The ceremony seemed flawless until it was leaked to media that Brazilian supermodel Gisele made a mistake in her walk – she was too fast (ironic at the Olympics really).  Her walk in a thigh-split silver sequined gown (amazing) led to a 1,850% rise in Google searches for her name in just one hour. Richard Lawson, of Vanity Fair, said: “Gisele literally just walked across the stadium and it was an event.”

2. Watch your P’s and Q’s even in the pool

When the Mack Horton scandal erupted a few days ago, many Australians had never heard of the young swimmer. The 24-year-old was at the centre of controversy three days before the Olympics began when Fairfax Media revealed that a Chinese swimmer had tried to disrupt Horton by splashing him at the training pool in Rio. Horton responded by saying he had “no time or respect for drug cheats”, a jab at Sun’s positive drug test two years ago. Sun served a three-month doping ban in 2014, which the Chinese federation kept secret.

Earlier this week, Chinese fans took the grudge into their own hands, attacking Horton on his various social media accounts using the hashtag #apologizetosunyan.

“Your parents and whole country should be shame [sic] on what you’ve said,” one user wrote on Instagram.

Another wrote: “You even won the match, but you are still a loser, you don’t deserve to have an Olympic gold medal.”

Many other trolled Horton’s accounts with snake emojis.

Horton hasn’t taken to social media, and is charming the media, he claims his comments have been taken out of context and was quoted saying “what controversy”. It’s now up to the fans to decide as everyone looks towards the 1500m final – both of the swimmers main event.

3. Monitor your social…

London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games had an official social media following of 4.7 million users across all platforms. Two years later, Sochi’s had gone up to over 5 million across two platforms alone: Facebook and VKontakte, the most popular Russian social media site. @Rio2016 is sitting at more than 500K followers on Twitter. Thinking beyond the official channels, and only five days in, the potential impact of social media on the games is endless.

4. Advertising and brands can make the most of any event.

Westpac put together a montage of Olympians’ family members attempting their sports. It’s funny, adorable, and leaves you feeling nice and warm.  Susie O’Neills mum doing the butterfly stroke is cute. Lacoste for team France anyone? Rio 2016 marks the fifth time Ralph Lauren has dressed Team USA. Stella McCartney based the looks she created for Great Britain’s athletes on the signature silhouettes that commonly feature in her fashion designs.  We saw Puma in the opening ceremony looking after Cuba’s team, but it is rumoured that Christian Louboutin has helped create outfits for the closing ceremony on 22 August. The Olympics gives these brands a whole new platform to expose themselves to a larger public.

5. Has Channel Seven’s Olympic coverage controlled and changed the way we can watch sports.

Channel Seven has decided to broadcast the Olympics solo. No Foxtel partnership. People who want to watch Gymnastics live for example have to pay for it via a subscription app. This has already upset the public. Why should we have to pay for an event that is broadcast for free in other nations? The Conversation explores this in a deep analysis.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

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