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The international sports competition we can’t really mention… because we’re a business

Jul 26, 2012

By: Christian Williams, Social Media Specialist

There is an international athletic competition taking place in London starting this week. You might know their symbol by memory (the five interlocked rings of color). The competition takes place every four years.

It sounds like the term ‘old chimp tricks’.

Have you figured it out yet?

Unfortunately, there is a long list of terms that we likely can’t use to reference this monumental sporting event. Why?

We are a business. So we’ll tread with care. But social media, the way it’s used, and who uses it, offers a bit more latitude, especially as its global popularity has spread in longitude, reaching millions.

In fact, many are already commenting that the social media conversation surrounding the ‘lympics – described by some as the “Socialympics” – will change the scope of this years’ competition. The Opening Ceremony for the games on Friday, July 27, is shaping up to be the most widely tweeted ceremony in the event’s 116-year modern history.

Of course, many of the major social media platforms were around during the last games, held in Beijing in 2008 (Twitter has been around since 2006; Facebook was actually founded during 2004 when the event was held in Athens).

Why, then, is the popular athletic event gearing up to be considered ‘groundbreaking’ in the social media world?

Social media has expanded drastically since 2008. During the year of the Beijing Games, Facebook was just breaking 100 million users. That’s million with an ‘m.’ Today’s user figure, one presidential term later, is rapidly closing on 1 billion – a feat which may be reached sometime in August. Twitter was just a tot at two years old, and while 140-character communication started proving its worth as conversation generator and news breaker, many users were still adjusting to its potential.

Today, according to Mashable, Facebook boasts more than 900 million users and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is a household name. Twitter has also matured into a microblogging and conversation spot for over 500 million users, a population size some 186 million greater than the United States. While Facebook can be expected to carry most of the multimedia content that is shared, such as video highlights and photos, you can also expect Twitter to carry tons of dialogue about every single event at the games, and all of it in real-time.

While doing some research, I came across this: The branding guidelines for this prestigious worldwide event. It basically gives the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games* (LOCOG) exclusive rights to every single trademark related to the event, including the names of their sponsors.

The rings. The name. We can’t even use the word London and the current year in the same sentence.

Not even the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and her family are immune to LOCOG’s brand police.

So what does that mean for businesses? Any business – including ours – that ignores the fact that this event is going on will be missing out on a great opportunity to get involved in the hype. But how can a business talk about it without being hounded by LOCOG for building an unintended association between your organization and the event?

Use your CEO. This is where your president, leader, chief executive, etc., comes in handy. If the main face of your organization is known as active and influential on social media networks, have them tweet or Facebook from their personal account. Personal tweets about the competition are exempt from the branding rules. The CEO can provide their own insight to the competition and get your company’s followers excited about the event without providing a direct link to the company itself.

Use the news. Journalists are also authorized to report on the events, and are allowed to use all of the terminology that brands are prohibiting from using in their writing. Make use of your quoting and linking resources – this is definitely a time to read articles on the competition and use the journalist’s content to your advantage.

Use these two tips to join the conversation without joining the list of companies that have already been accused of unlawful association.

And by the way, if you haven’t figured it out yet: the real name of this event is hidden in the article. Just look for the asterisk.

Let the word that rhymes with names – and the tweets and Facebook posts that follow – begin!

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