World Cup vs Olympics: How The Next Big Tournament’s Shaping Up Online

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Credit: Cape Town, Western Cape Province, South Africa

“It’s an appropriate time to compare what we’re doing against the World Cup,” Alex Balfour, the new media head of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games said, presenting these stats to the Social Media Influence conference in London on Tuesday…

— Competing nations: World Cup: 32 | Olympics: 205
— Athletes: World Cup: 736 | Olympics: 15,000
— Media: 20,000
— Tickets: 9 million
— Venues: World Cup: 12 | Olympics: 170+ venues

“The size of what we’re doing is absolutely enormous,” Balfour said. “Day by day, I get terrified by numbers about the range of things we’re doing. The scale is just absolutely huge.” The last, winter Olympics give an indication…

Vancouver2010.com stats from Balfour…
— 291 million visits (Beijing 2008: 105 million)
— 83 million uniques (Beijing 2008: 70 million – compared with Yahoo’s 32 million, NBC.com’s 20 million)
— Over 50 percent of all Canadians visited the site
— 8.7 million visits to mobile site, 1.25 app downloads
— 1.2 million Facebook fans (Beijing 2008: 320,000)
— “Every post they put on Facebook attracted about 100,000 comments.”

But it looks like Vancouver and Beijing’s online audience will pale against London2012.com. “London is already tracking x2 Vancouver traffic at same stage and planning for 10 billion visits,” Balfour’s slides said. “We’re aiming to sign up 5m+ to our databases.”

LOCOG is charged with delivering the games themselves for the International Olympics Committee. Online, it has a varied, and changing, remit – including a London2012.com pre-event site, building audience engagement and UK sports participation ahead of the games and, during the games, publishing results on its own site and out on to third parties including social networks.

At the moment, it’s using Twitter to encourage deep-link click-throughs to London2012.com pages, Facebook for more static, “call-and-response” excitement building and MyLondon2012.com to collect user-generated messages that could be re-published during the games – some, perhaps, beamed on to athletic venues.

Blutooth enabled display boards at London venues will also be receive and re-publish attendees’ messages. “People can share that with us and then we can re-share it in physical envionrments,” Balfour said. “There’s exciting potential to bring that in to the ceremonies as well.”

“Our major learning from the Vancouver games is that social media has to be FUN. People use it in their procrastination time, downtime, fun time. We produce endless photos of construction progress … some of them quite inspirational and exciting … however, when we put updates on our Facebook page, we get complaints. ‘show us something cool‘.”

Asked whether third-party services – including mobile location sharers, which could overlay their own messages on to venues in cyberspace – pose a threat to LOCOG’s necessity to protect the investment of official sponsors, Balfour said: “It’s perfectly possible, should we wish to do so, around infrastructure we control, that we can restrict sites from appearing within our territories.”

But he later clarified to me that this possibility would apply in the event of bandwidth problems rather than as a kind of commercial censorship: “There is the potential to, if we are operating a WiFi infratructure, to decrease bottlenecks to priortise traffic to our sites – but it wouldn’t be for any other reason other than to make it more efficient. Many people’s expectation right now is that they can’t (even) make a phone call at a sports event.”

LOCOG is undertaking a big exercise with BT (NYSE: BT) and others to secure comms infrastructure for the games.

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Terry Purvis

“At the moment, it’s using Twitter to encourage deep-link click-throughs to London2012.com pages”

The phrase “deep-link” is the sort of meaningless nonsense which plagues anything to do with the Internet and there’s so much of it around.

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