The flame is now out for the London 2012 Olympics but the lessons learned by PR, marketing and communications firms will have a lasting impact for the industry. So what can engineering, technology and electronics companies take away from the media consumption of the Olympic Games?

The size and influence of mobile and social media is still underestimated.
It is much bigger than you think. Twitter estimates more than 50 million Olympic tweets reaching 80,000 per minute when Usain Bolt won gold. Viewing figures reached 900 million worldwide across all media. According to the BBC Mediacentre, it has delivered its “most successful online event ever, attracting a record-breaking 55m global browsers to BBC Sport online (cumulative reach) throughout the course of the Games, and marking London 2012 as the first truly digital Games.” It was also truly mobile with 1.9m downloads of BBC’s Olympics mobile app for iOS and Android smartphones and 40% of browsers accessing BBC’s Olympics coverage from a mobile at weekends (30% during the week) – averaging 34% per day. For an overview of the stats, have a look at the BBC Internet Blog.

Worldwide television networks were surprised at the impact of social and online media on traditional media consumption figures.

“It was the great unknown,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports. “We believed it would be a positive for us, and people would dialogue about the games even if they knew the outcomes. But every day in social media is a learning experience, not just for us but for every business. Yeah, I think maybe we did underestimate it.”

Extraordinary people and extraordinary events attract an extraordinary amount of attention.
If a message is worth spreading, it will spread. The numbers above are a testament to this.

The biggest stories are not planned.
#dangleboris, #NBCfail and the G4S debarcle could not have been anticipated. Boris Johnson’s mishap on a zipwire spawned a host of photoshopped images and thrives as a meme.

For more dangleboris images check out

Audiences do not behave as expected and campaigns can backfire.
Visa’s Global Cheer social media campaign, featuring Morgan Freeman was not a great success. Tweeters were engaged but talked about Morgan Freeman rather than mentioning the brand. Mentions of Visa were mostly negative as people complained about not being able to use other brands of credit card at Olympic events, as a result of Visa’s exclusivity deal. See how some other brands fared here.

Most Talked about Olympic Sponsors Infographic Part 2

Product placement and sponsorship does not need to be official to succeed.
Official sponsors, Adidas went head to head with Nike who used social media to ambush the olympics. Samsung’s product placement and collaboration was very effective but tweets, posts and uploaded photos kept other electronics brands in the public eye for minimal cost.

Sensible, open social media policies have a positive impact on PR.
The IOC encouraged volunteers, athletes and employees to use social media which created incredibly rich and varied online content but provided a clear policy emphasizing the need to adhere to the principles of the Olympic Games.  “Postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images.” (IOC Social Media Policy) The only real restriction was the mention of brands. To young athletes brought up in a consumer age where brand names are part of our everyday vocabulary and essential to their work and training this felt like a gagging order.

Social media has its own morality and strictly polices itself.
There are things you can and can’t say. There was a furious backlash from Twitter users after British journalist Guy Adam’s had his account blocked for providing the email address of NBC Olympics president, Gary Zenkel. Twitter reinstated his account with an apology. Tweeters unleashed fury on the Twitter troll who abused Tom Daley online, silencing his abuse immediately and extracting an apology before he was arrested.

User generated content will fill the vacuum left by traditional media.
The audience will find their own content if the professional media do not satisfy their needs. There was a huge increase in the use of proxy servers as US audiences attempted to gain access to BBC news feeds when it was discovered that NBC were restricting access to live events. The US turned to social media, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the action. Newspapers and broadcasters also turned to social media as a source of content and comment, re-presenting it as part of their own package.

The public enjoy content creation as much as consumption.
Instagram saw 65,000 Olympic photos uploaded, edited and shared. Aswell as filming Olympic events, the torch and so on, Youtubers selected and edited their own lympic highlights, adding music, effects and commentaries.

This is for Everyone #London2012

Browse more data visualization.


So what does this mean for Technology PR?

Conduct risk assessments before launching any technology PR campaigns on social media. Once an electronics or engineering company’s message is out there it cannot be taken back, buried or blocked. Heavy-handed attempts to silence tweeters and Facebookers will not be tolerated by the public.

The public is powerful and will use media as they see fit. Your message will be corrupted, the trick is to exploit this not attempt to control it.

Be alert throughout the life of a campaign and ready to respond to its development in the hands of the public.

Know your social media law. IP and copyright law regarding the reuse of publicly generated content is a minefield that can be avoided with an understanding of Creative Commons and a knowledge of the terms and conditions of the major social media sites. Sharing is usually free and encouraged until you start doing it for commercial gain. Proper attribution and use of permissions and disclaimers is essential.

Have messages worth sharing. Create extraordinary scenarios and events that encourage favorable comments and sharing across networks, rather than creating and posting all the content your self. The Royal Mail’s golden postbox and winners’ stamp campaign was a huge success and provided the offline incentive for enthusiastic coverage across all media, traditional and online as medal winners excitedly talked about their stamps and the public shared pictures of their local golden post boxes. Look for unusual uses of your own products and services and make this available to your public or market for filming or photographing. With a little inventiveness technology firms could generate the kind of memes so popular on, www.instagram and

Finally, have a look at the Wall Street Journals round up of their top 5 Social Media Takeaways. The memes and tweets we will remember from London 2012