Five Things The IOC Can Learn From The #SelfieOlympics

In early 2012, to denote the collision between mass-adoption social media and the Olympics, Synergy coined the term 'Socialympics', which subsequently went viral (even being adopted by the IOC), and staged two panel sessions in front of invited audiences either side of London 2012 to discuss the Socialympics phenomenon. (If you missed them, you can find a round-up of Socialympics 1 here and Socialympics 2 here).Fast forward to today, and in the days leading up to Sochi 2014, the first big internet meme of 2014 is the #SelfieOlympics, which has seen teens and young adults compete to top one another with selfies which vary from the extreme to the bizarre and everything in between. You haven't seen one? ('WHAT ARE YOU 30?!' as MTV wrote recently). Here's an early example: 


I can't say that we predicted the #SelfieOlympics back in our 2012 Socialympics sessions (now that would have been something), but I can say that we focused on an issue highlighted by the #SelfieOlympics: the enormous potential of social media to help the IOC address one of its biggest challenges - making the Olympics relevant and accessible to teens and young adults, and reverse the ageing Olympic demographic worldwide.

So, here's five things I'd suggest that the IOC and the Olympic Movement could learn from the #SelfieOlympics about marketing to the young.

1. The young get 'Faster, Higher, Stronger'. For any brand manager that would be good news: for the IOC, in a world full of brands with much bigger budgets competing for the young's attention and understanding, it's amazing news.

2. If you want the young to get into your brand, above all let them have some fun with it. This is not natural territory for the IOC, which has a tendency to be over-worthy, but it's territory they need to embrace.       

3. Your best marketers are your consumers. If the next generation is capable of spontaneously creating and spreading an idea as entertaining and viral as the #SelfieOlympics, who knows what else they can come up with? Invite them to play around some more with your brand.

4. If you want to market the Olympics to the young, think beyond sport. The #SelfieOlympics has done as much for the Olympic brand with the young as the Youth Olympic Games, which hasn't ever come close to going viral.

5. If the Olympic brand can go viral in this way once, it can do it again. The IOC and its stakeholders can make this happen: start with athletes posting #SelfieOlympics pics at Sochi, say.

Gearing up for Formula E: Sustainability Gets Sexy.

It is generally overlooked but nonetheless undeniable that innovation in the form of new product development (NPD) has been the lifeblood of top sport worldwide in the modern era. Football’s all-conquering Premier League (created in 1991) and Champions League (1992), cricket’s revolutionary Twenty20 format (2003) and resultant cash colossus the IPL (2008), rugby union’s game-changing World Cup (1987) and European Cup (1995) are all standout NPD examples, but there are many more.


Next off the production line in 2014 is an innovation which has the potential to have the most profound impact of them all – not just on sport, but on society as a whole. Formula E, motorsport’s most radical innovation in generations, is the first world championship race series for electric cars, and will hit cities from London to Los Angeles after its debut in China in September.

Although it’s still early days, even at this stage Formula E is showing all the signs of becoming a major success.

It’s backed by the considerable weight of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The cars and tech are being developed by companies with serious racing credentials such as McLaren, Williams and Michelin. And the starting grid is full, ten teams having signed up to take part from a combined eight countries – five from Europe, three from Asia, and two from the US.


There’s also already a tangible feelgood factor in Formula E’s commercial programme. Team investors include Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson’s Virgin. Broadcast deals (Fox, TV Asahi) and sponsorships (DHL and Qualcomm) are flowing, with more in the pipeline. All driven by an astute marketing and PR strategy led by CEO Alejandro Agag, the latest example of which saw the first public demonstration of a Formula E car at CES in Las Vegas.

But the big question, of course, is whether Formula E will prove a hit with fans.


We think it will.Formula E cars will be as good-looking as F1 cars, and seriously fast. 0-60 in 3 seconds, and a top speed of 150 mph. That will feel blindingly fast on the closed-off city street circuits Formula E will use.

F1-type cars racing at over 150 mph through the streets of iconic cities such as London, LA, Monte Carlo and Rio at night will clearly be an amazing spectacle.

Add to that the interactive innovations Formula E is working on – including enabling fans to actually influence races online while they are taking place – and it’s clear that it could also be a revolutionary fan experience.

What's not to like?

Along with the fact that it will all be delivered with minimal climate pollution, and raise awareness of the benefits of driving zero-emissions electric vehicles in congested cities, and it’s also clear that Formula E could be instrumental in making sustainability sexy, worldwide.



This piece features in the 2014 edition of #NowNewNext, Synergy's annual look ahead at trends in marketing and sponsorship.