Who Were the Winners of Social Media in the 2020 Olympic Elections? David Granger

September 11, 2013

While there were tears in Spain and Turkey, the Japanese were ecstatic as were the world’s best squash players and the Chinese state media got the wrong end of the stick.

Another great Olympic selection round, but this time with added digital and social media skirmishes on the side. And with some surprising results.

Because, in the build-up to the announcement, the social media winner (according to cold, hard numbers) was… Japan.

Was that a surprise? Well, perhaps the generally western-biased, English-speaking media might have thought so, but in reality the Asian market is the globe’s big consumer of both social media and new online services. (4G? Japan was 4G years ago.)

When the successful bid was announced on Saturday, the Japanese channels (we’ve taken Facebook and Twitter for this poll) boasted 198,802 followers, while Madrid had (and an annoying link which didn’t take you to their Page, but your own…) 353 Facebook followers and 62,505 and Istanbul had a total of 115,217. Not the outcome you’d have predicted…

The London 2012 took a very long-term, slowburn approach to social media. And it worked. The agencies involved were ahead of the curve in social media terms, but what will be interesting to see now is how Japan fares from here on in. Keeping up momentum, content and global interest is going to be challenging for the next eight years. Do they leave it dormant, attempt one major social media strategy or


Are these Pages relevant in the build-up? Of course. Just ask the good people at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The ground-swell of support for Formula One, not a sport with the greatest relationship with Uncle Sam, can be seen to a large degree to have come via social media channels. What will be of interest now is how the Japanese use their social channels to promote the games and also promote the country and the safety of its environment.

Much like the Eurovision Song Contest, the Olympic bid is a chance for old political sparring partners to don their gloves again and so it was with both Turkey and Japan being on the receiving end of online campaigns highlighting historical chapters which weren’t in their bid documents. China scored an own goal when state media erroneously announced its neighbour hadn’t won. This may not have been good for its reputation as an impartial, accurate news source. But then this was the same state media which repeated The Onion’s story last year that North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un had been recognised as the ‘sexiest man alive’ for 2012.

One other winner, and a sport which utilized an online army was squash. The World Squash Federation orchestrated a clever campaign which saw the launch of the Squash 2020 Facebook Page (at nearly 125,000 Likes saw a 21% increase in the week running up to the announcement), its Back the Bid YouTube clip had 153,000 views and @Vote4Squash Twitter account had 10,000 followers. It also courted global support from everyone from Egypt to India.

So, time to keep an eye on what happens next for both Squash and Tokyo. How will they fill those channels, keep engagement and countdown to 2020 without losing momentum. Is it possible?

Having spent eight seasons in Formula One managing the digital channels for world champions Red Bull Racing, David Granger now runs Fact 51 (www.fact51.com) a social and digital content agency.

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