Salute the Olympic spirit

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So the London 2012 Olympic Games have come to an end.

A spectacular closing ceremony last night – with music, song, dance, awe-inspiring stadium lighting and fireworks that made up the greatest show on earth – brought the past two weeks of competition to an emotional climax.

The sight of the Olympic spirit rising as a phoenix from the dying flame is an excellent metaphor to apply to the 2012 Olympics legacy in the coming weeks and months, not only in terms of the big picture politicians and others are painting about investing in school sports throughout the UK (“empowering a new generation”) and helping British businesses “reap the rewards”,  but also for Team GB and the launch platform their success has built in these games.

All the doubt, worry and criticisms before London 2012 about our ability to host these games quietly vanished within days of the start, replaced instead with powerful and growing feelings and displays of national pride as we witnessed thousands of athletes from around the world doing amazing things in open competition, right here in our capital city and other places of competition around the UK.

Indeed, worldwide worry disappeared.

And we were suddenly proud to be British, uplifted especially by the achievements of our Team GB, collectively and individually – and that includes the 70,000 volunteers – with their selfless hard work, team spirit and determination to succeed, maybe even win a medal or two.

If government can enable the framework – that’s their prime job – then Team GB can be an influential player to kick-start the legacy.

As they say so compellingly, don’t stop me now.

Olympic benefits for corporate reputations

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The past two weeks of the London 2012 Olympic Games have certainly been a time of drama, high emotion, success and failure, and a general lifting of the spirits to witness such displays of intense effort and much achievement by athletes from over 100 countries.

The positive focus on this wonderful sporting event has just about excluded any other news from anyone’s attention as our TV screens, newspapers and favourite social networks have given us so much to consume, share and interact with over all that’s good about humanity and society.

It’s as if we know reality will resume this coming Monday, so let’s make the most of it!

You could apply similar thinking about a corporation or a brand from being associated with such goodness, where such a groundswell of positive feeling and perception rubs off on that corporation or brand.

As marketing intelligence company Warc reports, that’s exactly what’s happening with regard to Visa, BP and Acer – three of the main sponsors of the 2012 Olympic Games – which have recorded the greatest uptick in buzz among US consumers, citing new figures from the YouGov research firm.

[...] Visa, the financial services provider, registered the largest improvement on this metric, as its index score rose from 8.2 points before the competition to 22.7 points once it began on July 27.

Second place in the YouGov rankings went to BP, the oil firm, which has been tackling negative perceptions ever since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. Its total climbed from –5.9 points to 2.6 points, an 8.5-point lift.

Acer, the IT group, took third, improving by 5.1 points to 8.9 points overall.

Warc’s report adds that Coca-Cola, the soft drinks maker, accrued an additional 3.5 points, taking it to 24 points in all. McDonald’s, the fast food network, was also up by 2.3 points to 16.1 points.

BP’s rise is especially impressive, given the still-ongoing reputational challenges the energy giant faces following the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

I think a key element in the success of BP and the others Warc mentions is how such corporate sponsors have been presenting their corporate selves and brands’ association  with the Olympics in TV and other advertising.

Take Visa’s example of explaining the economic value they say will result for London and the UK in general, following the games, as shown in this infographic (a portion of which you see at the top of this page).

In TV advertising, BP’s a good example of how a public perception of selflessness is positive, such as in this corporate spot shown on US television a few months ago focusing on athletes and their potential to win, with next to nothing said about BP’s business.

(If you don’t see the video embedded here, watch it on YouTube.)

BP has been showing similar-focused ads on TV in the UK.

YouGov’s concise report makes good reading as it adds commentary to the numbers including the other brands covered in the latest research – see the chart here (and check the three sponsors showing less buzz in the US than before).

olympicsponsorbuzz

Public opinion is a fickle thing, to be sure, but Visa, BP, Acer and others show that public relations benefits on reputation can result if you get it right. I wonder what such research would show for buzz about all these sponsors in the UK.

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Should you trust Twitter?

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So the kerfuffle over Twitter’s suspension of journalist Guy Adams’ account has ended, with the company reinstating it and issuing an apology of sorts.

Adams, the Los Angeles-based correspondent for The Independent newspaper, had been posting a series of tweets that were highly-critical of US TV network NBC and its broadcast coverage of the London 2012 Olympics. The account suspension followed Adams’ disclosing an email address of an NBC executive in a tweet which Twitter said was in breach of its terms of service.

The suspension lit up the social web with all sorts of protest over the past day and a half. But now that Adams has his Twitter account again, all’s well that ends well, right?

I’m not so sure it does. What Twitter did and perhaps more importantly, how they did it, is a bit worrying for an online service that’s part of the fabric of the social web, in which many people and organizations have placed a great deal of implicit trust.

In the apology posted late yesterday, Twitter’s general counsel Alex McGillivray describes how Twitter handles situations in which users post the personal information of other people, such as email addresses. He makes clear reference to Twitter’s terms of service which cover such matters.

But here’s the worrying part.

McGillivray also discloses this:

[...] we want to apologize for the part of this story that we did mess up. The team working closely with NBC around our Olympics partnership did proactively identify a Tweet that was in violation of the Twitter Rules and encouraged them to file a support ticket with our Trust and Safety team to report the violation, as has now been reported publicly. Our Trust and Safety team did not know that part of the story and acted on the report as they would any other.

In other words, one part of Twitter used privileged information to tell another part of Twitter something that had to be acted on in accordance with Twitter’s terms of service.

McGillivray continues:

As I stated earlier, we do not proactively report or remove content on behalf of other users no matter who they are. This behavior is not acceptable and undermines the trust our users have in us. We should not and cannot be in the business of proactively monitoring and flagging content, no matter who the user is — whether a business partner, celebrity or friend. As of earlier today, the account has been unsuspended, and we will actively work to ensure this does not happen again.

An employee or employees doing something internally that is not an acceptable practice is nothing new so Twitter shouldn’t be damned for that alone. As McGillivray notes, it’s a matter they’re addressing internally to “ensure this does not happen again.”

In the meantime, though, I do think trust in Twitter has suffered a setback, perhaps only a minor one given the fact that common sense prevailed, the suspension was quickly reversed and an explanation and apology publicly communicated.

Yet with all the best goodwill in the world, how would anyone know something arbitrary like this won’t happen again? Or something else? Has a commercial relationship Twitter has, such as the one it has with NBC, affected its judgement and behaviour, putting in question its neutrality and, indeed, user trust?

While such conversations will continue and reverberate, I say give Twitter the benefit of the doubt – but be circumspect and recognize that Twitter is a company made up of people (like every company) and people do make mistakes.

It’s how they fix them, and how quickly, that will be a benchmark of trust going forward.

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Humour’s a funny thing

What’s funny to you or I may not be to anyone else.

Case in point – SpecSavers‘ press ad in the UK today over the Korean flag mixup at #London2012.

I can see the humour certainly. But I wonder how the Koreas might especially with both flags portrayed together like that. Pretty sensitive issues for both, especially North Korea.

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The people and social media challenges at the 2012 Olympic Games

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Reuters reports that Anthony Edgar, head of media operations for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), freely admits that he does not know what to expect at the London Olympic Games following the explosion of social media, with some 900 million people using Facebook in 2012 compared to the 100 million who used the site just four years ago at the time of the Beijing Games.

“Yes you can’t hold a camera when you’re running down the 100 meter straight and do an exclusive broadcast. That’s for the broadcasters,” he told Reuters in an interview. “But you can certainly talk about it. You can certainly take photos of it. And you can certainly write about it.

“We’re having to deal with things now that didn’t exist in Beijing, with a voice that wasn’t so loud in Beijing. Everyone is allowed to film who goes into a venue … but it’s for personal use only.”

[...] Fans inside a stadium will be allowed to use their smartphones to film Usain Bolt on the track or Michael Phelps in the pool, but they will not be allowed to upload it to Facebook in a ruling that may surprise many tech-savvy fans who now upload clips on a regular basis.

I can imagine a near-impossible task in policing that latter restriction. What will officials do at an Olympic venue when hundreds if not thousands of spectators are busy with their mobile devices uploading stuff? Manually try and prevent it? Not a chance. Turn off the networks? Hmm, good luck with that idea – someone tried something similar in the US last year, which didn’t really work.

As some are predicting data traffic of 60Gb a second at the Olympic Park primary venue in east London – equal to about 3,000 photos – here, concisely, is what I think we can expect:

  1. Anyone with a mobile device and a network connection will be using it, no matter what, to spontaneously share their text, audio and visual opinions of what they experience at an Olympics event.
  2. Athletes are people like anyone else, and want to share too.
  3. Everyone else, wherever they are – at home watching TV, in a pub, the office, on a bus or train or wherever – will want to do the same.
  4. If anyone can’t get online to share because of no network connection, they’ll do that whenever they can get online.

An IOC member reportedly told the BBC recently that “the Olympics is one of the oldest social networks that has ever been.”

In that case, I hope a pragmatic and common sense approach is adopted by the so-called ‘brand police’ with regard to such sharing – even after reading what the Olympic organizers have published about brand protection during London 2012.

Organizers, please do go after the ambush marketers and the thieves of intellectual property, but please let go of control and don’t smother free expression by everyone else, whose words and pictures will measurably add to and enrich the Olympics’ overall record.

And above all, notwithstanding the comedy of errors characterized by concerns about security and more during recent weeks, let’s just enjoy the amazing spectacle of these Olympic Games, wherever we are!

[Updated 22/7/12] ] The BBC reports IOC president Jacques Rogge as saying that “common sense will prevail” on enforcing protection of sponsors.

[...] Asked about the policing of sponsorship, the IOC president said Locog would take a “subtle approach” to sponsorship and individual cases would not be pursued with the police.

“But if there is really blatant intent of ambush marketing by another company or by a group of people with commercial views then of course we will intervene.

“If you have the T-shirt of a competitor of one of our sponsors we will not intervene,” he said. “So common sense will prevail and Locog will work with commonsense.”

Under IOC rules, tier one “worldwide partners” – such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola – get sole global marketing rights within their sector, including being able to sell their products and services exclusively within Olympic venues.

Locog on Friday said only large groups of spectators wearing “visibly branded” clothing were at risk of being banned from Olympic venues.

Also, see some specifics on what the IOC has planned for its own proactive use of social tools and channels: Olympics committee gets its social media game on with Tumblr, Instagram integration.

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