Which Brand Won Social Gold at Sochi?

Published on Feb 26th, 2014

NBC Olympics dominated the social sphere over the course of the Sochi Games, outperforming brand pages with larger and more consistently engaged fan bases.  Even compared to the NFL during the lead up to and day of the Super Bowl, NBC Olympics had a five times higher average engagement per post.

Skiers took to the slopes, skaters took to the ice and the dreams of several three-peat gold medalists were dashed at Sochi. But while the athletes raced against the clock, another high-stakes race played out across the social web.

NBC seized upon interest in the Olympics to score high ratings, gain ad revenues and increase brand visibility; it also captured Gold in another arena: social media – meaning Bob Costas’ eyes weren't the only thing that made people talk on Twitter.

When it comes to which brand wins social media over this period, NBC Olympics isn’t the only brand on the podium at Sochi. Sponsors who launched specific posts about athletes earned the strongest engagement.

Top brands excelled at a few specific things that can easily be adapted to any social media strategy. Let’s take a look at the Top Four tips and tricks social media marketers can do to Medal in the 2014 Social Olympics.

On the Podium for Shared Content:

Sharing and retweeting – a concept vital to creating viral content – exposes users outside of a brand’s fan base to their activity. NBC Olympics once again dominated the field, generating nearly five times the amount of shares and nearly seven times the amount of retweets as the next closest brand that frequently employed Olympic-related content: Visa.

Brand’s like Visa used celebratory and emotional moments to capture the attention of their audience, often lauding American athletes on their performance. This post by Visa demonstrates the success and emotional nature of American medalists at Sochi, while generating over 3000 shares for the brand.

From the Podium: Emotional and celebratory content is vital to users sharing posts. Brands that created water cooler content that tied in their contributions to the athletes dominated sharing.

On the Podium for Encouraging Actions:

Asking their fans to give a congratulatory “like” to athletes benefitted NBC Olympics the most, but it also helped other brands. Using this strategy boosted their total post engagement by a huge margin.

On average, NBC Olympics can expect about 2% of their fan base to engage. However, when the page encouraged a “like”, it jumped to nearly 17% of fans engaging with each post. This post about Meryl David & Charlie White, which encouraged users to like the post, topped the category.

Liberty Mutual Insurance is a notable brand that called on users to like their content. This strategy also generated positive returns for them. The post below, which encouraged users to like if they were cheering on the Hockey team, was among the top posts for this page.

Although liking does not create the same value of pass-along content that sharing does, the staggering rise in engagement is the envy of every social media manager.

By contrast, Sports Leagues and Olympic Sponsors, over the course of 2013, generated a significantly lower average engagement using this strategy. The chart below demonstrates the dramatic differences

From the Podium: Use well-placed, specifically targeted calls to action that encourage your users to directly engage with a piece of content. This will drive your overall engagement per post up and encourage additional users to engage over time.

On the Podium for Product Placement:

Certain brands landed on the podium by referencing their products in conjunction with Olympic athletes. Brands that encouraged users to celebrate the success with their product or references athletes that used their product performed the best.

For instance, Coca-Cola references super-star skier Ted Ligety in a post that discusses his personal superstition or super-power of drinking Coke. This encouraged a solid amount of likes, shares and comments for Coke.

McDonald’s also took advantage of their sponsorship of the Winter Games by connecting the events with their products. This again generated a healthy amount of likes, shares and comments for their brand page.

From the Podium: Brands that connected their product with the Winter Games and specific athletes generated a higher engagement value on that content than other content. Using these types of product tie-ins can help a brand engage more users.

On the Podium for Instagram Actions:

Although most of the Sochi sponsors do not have an Instagram account, those that do saw enormous returns on engagement. Out of almost 14 million social moments from Olympic Sponsors and Official Pages over this time, 37% were on Instagram. This result is made all the more staggering when you consider that only 19 Olympic Sponsors and Pages maintain an Instagram account for their brand.

Nike dominated the Instagram field, scoring a top post in the category with an Olympics related #justdoit post that drew attention to the Winter Games. The post generated more than 170,000 likes for Nike.

Ralph Lauren also dominated in regards to Instagram, most frequently posting with an integrated product such as the team uniforms designed for Team USA. There was a large focus on photo posts that highlighted the Opening Ceremony.

From the Podium: Brands that want to be competitive in the field of social media should integrate their content across platforms. Developing an Instagram presence is an easy way to encourage deeper engagement from fans.

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