Olympics: Brand gold goes to social media

Olympics: Brand gold goes to social media

Olympics 2008 will be the first Games that truly celebrate social media. Even as the 12 global sponsors fork out a cool $6 billion (Rs25,380 crore) for ads targeted at the Chinese market alone, some advertisers are already bringing home the gold with ingenious branding efforts using social networking websites or blogs.

The social media work of McDonald’s Corp. is focused on its maiden alternate reality game called The Lost Ring. The game challenges players to solve mysteries related to the Olympics and already millions of fans across 100 countries have tried their hand at it.

In turn, computer company Lenovo Group Ltd has created blogs for 100 Olympics athletes. While Lenovo’s website does not host these blogs and only showcases them, the participating athletes have a “Lenovo 2008 Olympics Blogger" badge on their sites and are free to write whatever they want. The laptops and video cameras that capture their preparations for the Games are naturally from Lenovo. This effort helps it display its tech power while associating with lesser-known sports such as field hockey and modern pentathlon.

All examples testify to the sheer engaging power of social media in brand building. They are also in synergy with potent offline branding work—the Dow Jones Insight-2008 Olympics Media Pulse shows that Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are leading media share through mentions of their Olympic collectible soda cans and cups that could evoke goodwill towards the brands.

Meanwhile, surf the Net for the scores of innovative social media work running this Olympics. R3 Asia Pacific, a marketing consultancy which has done extensive research work in China on the Beijing Olympics, shares how some brands have been inspiring creativity on social media:

* Participating in Panasonic’s photo contest (www.olympic.cn/team/panasonic), consumers can upload photos within the subject of Olympics and vote for others’ photos on the website, with prizes of course.

*Samsung Electronics Co. started a video contest based on the torch relay theme where Netizens could upload videos or pictures related to the torch relay to take part in this contest and win prizes.* China Mobile and video share portal Youku formed a platform on http://m-zone.youku.com/. Its M-Zone “cheering for Olympics" website seeks to entertain its young consumers.

*FAW-Volkswagen Automobile Co. Ltd launched the Honk for China campaign. Netizens who write about the torch relay passing through their town can link their posts with the FAW-VW’s official torch map website. They then receive a “honking badge" that allows them to compose a tune which visitors can play (honk). Bloggers who attract the most “honks" win prizes.

*Qingdao Haier Co. Ltd, in association with Baidu.com Inc., sponsored an Olympics online “love torch" relay. The campaign urges every Netizen in Baidu’s City Club BBS to “pass love" across cities.

*Nike Inc. had a “creative community" for sharing creative works.

*PepsiCo Inc.’s website celebrates “Everyone can be on the can for China" online activity around the Olympics. Consumers can upload pictures or articles about their love for China on websites such as 5a.com, Xiaonei.com, Taoao.com, Pocn.cn, Ipartment and 163.com.

Call this viral or buzz marketing. What’s clear is that brands will increasingly use social media hooked on to mega global events to catalyse brand advocacy on an unprecedented scale.

Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor.Your comments are welcome at advalue@livemint.com