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Think BR: Brand Races and the power of social media

How can we understand the role social media played during the Olympics and what it means for brands, asks Tim Hipperson, chief executive officer, G2 Joshua.

Tim Hipperson, chief executive officer, G2 Joshua

Tim Hipperson, chief executive officer, G2 Joshua

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Pushing boundaries


The Olympics pushed everyone to the edge of their ability - the athletes who broke world records, the engineers who built the stadiums, the sponsors pledging the financial backing to make it all possible and of course the brands behind the epic advertising campaigns.

The Olympics also pushed social media to new heights. It truly was the first social Olympics. The first time that marketers could use social media as a true representation of consumer sentiment.

The figures speak for themselves. If you just consider Twitter activity, with 140 million users worldwide, 150 million tweets posted about the Olympics and 116,000 tweets per minute mentioning the Spice Girls during the closing ceremony, the potential for brands to reach consumers and analyse sentiment was immense.

With such a vast amount of consumer data available we wanted to tap into this to visually demonstrate the power of social media.

For the duration of the games, we ran exclusively with Brand Republic a daily analysis of social media buzz around the Olympics sponsors called ‘Brand Races’, demonstrating the brands which received the most amount of social chatter, as well as the sentiment of that activity.

‘Brand Races’ was a fantastic example of how marketers can take a plethora of disparate information and display it in a highly relevant and meaningful way.

We utilised social media data provided by SDL SM2, and created insight into social conversations relating to the sponsors, articulated in a highly engaging and creative form.

We were able to demonstrate which brands were winning in terms of positive social media buzz across the internet based on all relevant dialogues across Facebook and Twitter.

The data was aggregated dynamically using the SM2 Api, tracking the volume of conversation on Twitter and Facebook, as well as analysing the average sentiment around each brand.

With the ability to demonstrate who was winning the battle of the sponsors during the games, social media posed considerable advantages and disadvantages. It became a highly valuable tool to seed messages, raise profiles and create talkability.

However, it was also detrimental in some cases where consumers were able to instantly air their unhappiness to thousands of people.

During the first few days of the games it was fascinating to see the sponsors rising and falling in popularity in line with announcements, advertising campaigns and news coverage.

Samsung rapidly rose to fourth in the rankings following the launch of their Olympic edition Galaxy S III while Adidas sentiment rocketed when David Beckham featured across their photo booth advertising campaign.

Evolution of the idea


The idea behind ‘Brand Races’ came from multiple conversations with brands that had realised the need for an up to the minute understanding of sentiment across social media.

Over the last few years we began to develop technology in conjunction with SDL to create a way of demonstrating social media data in a meaningful way.

Last year we launched the Social Media Brand Cloud which enabled us to showcase social media sentiment around our clients. For the Olympics we wanted to take this to the next level and make a statement about the important insights that data visualisation can offer to brands when tied in with their marketing strategy.

As soon as a campaign is launched it is now possible to evaluate consumer feedback across social media in a highly engaging manner.

The power of social media


‘Brand Races’ was able to demonstrate how prolific social media was around the games and how useful real time monitoring of sentiment can be.

Social media has obviously played a central role in marketing for a number of years but never before has its use been so abundant and consumers relied on it so much as an outlet for their opinions.

For marketers, it is only really now that they have been given the technological capability to monitor this sentiment effectively to provide a true representation of consumer opinion.

I strongly believe that in order for marketers to conduct their job effectively and understand what consumers are truly thinking they must have a firm grasp of real time attitude. The very fact that consumer taste is transitory means that we have to create campaigns that will work in a climate of flux.

For brands to create successful and seamless communications with consumers, brands have to tap into social communities and co-create ideas and propositions in real time.

It is a brand's duty to comprehend current and changing consumer attitudes, their desires, dislikes, what they’re talking to their peers about now and what they are likely to say next.

To forge true connections with consumers, marketers should be able to understand a consumer emotionally as well as commercially and react to this quickly. This can now be performed through interpreting social media.

Social at Rio 2016


Brands and marketers learnt a number of lessons from the first social media Olympics. There were winners and losers and brands pushed the medium to the limits of its capabilities.

What ‘Brand Races’ demonstrates is that brands can no longer run a campaign, launch a new product or make a statement which is unconnected to social media. London 2012 showed us that any brand activity is now intrinsically linked to social media and it has the power to make or break a brand.

Therefore the future of effectively harnessing social media relies on putting it at the heart of your strategy, tapping into the vast data available, analysing it in real time and reacting to it hastily in a way that is meaningful to the consumer. Marketers have four years to ensure they get it right at Rio.

Tim Hipperson, CEO, G2 Joshua

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