London Olympics, 2012, is being termed as the first ever ‘Socio-Olympics’, being the first Olympics to be broadcast on social media on the scale that it was. India, however, lagged when it came to tweeting and sharing the five-ringed stage.

The opening ceremony saw a whopping 9.66 million tweets. The official YouTube channel has seen 355,974 subscribers and 46,079,205 video views as of August 16, 6:30 p.m. Tweets crossed 150 million over a fortnight of the games with Jamaican Usain Bolt being the most discussed athlete and the UK's very own Spice Girls setting a new Olympic record for inspiring 116,000 tweets per minute during the closing ceremony. Sportspersons and athletes trended on Twitter even as Google doodled itself into corporate workstations.

Only a handful of individuals associated with the game tweeted their candid moments. Minister of Sports Ajay Maken, Olympics Bronze medalist Saina Nehwal, and champion boxer Mary Kom were amongst those who did.

“Some other celebrities such as Sachin Tendulkar, Mahindra Singh Dhoni and the Prime Minister of India have tweeted congratulations to the medal-winners, but we really haven’t seen the social platforms taking off and being used to the optimum,” says Yashraj Vakil, COO, Red Digital.

This despite the fact that an online poll by global research company Ipsos revealed that 50 per cent of Indian viewers intended to watch the Olympics on the Internet, while 24 per cent would use their smartphones and 15 per cent tablets.

Poor showing

The Indian contingent at London 2012 failed to acquire celebrity status on social media. “Brands too fizzled out in promoting India. Hero Motocorp’s ‘India Go’ television commercial failed to create excitement as also the Amul Girl on the social media or Naukri.com coming out with Olympic-themed games. The only noteworthy online campaign to promote India at the Olympics was by Procter & Gamble (P&G),” adds Vakil.

P&G’s global commercial ‘Thank you Mom’, which featured Olympian athletes and their mothers, included Mary Kom. The video boasted 630 subscribers and 1,053,284 video views as of August 16, 6:30 pm.

Santosh Desai, Managing Director & CEO, Future Brands, however, begs to differ. “Since the last Olympics there has been a sea change in India’s involvement, which though not as high as in cricket, was still substantial. Our athletes may not be very Twitter-savvy but I won’t be harsh on India’s involvement. I would rather judge them on their performance. Brands’ interest too is derived from how the country performs because advertisers will go where the viewers go.”

India Inc perhaps felt the excitement of the Olympics wouldn’t last in a cricket-possessed country, maybe the reason why Olympics’ relevance to a brand somehow didn’t get across.

Harish Bijoor, business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, says: “Only 19 million Indians are on Twitter, which is minuscule for a population of 1.2 billion. Social media is not yet on the fast track, with the masses still geared to traditional media. By the time Rio arrives, we will be catching a lot more action on social media and a lot more excitement.”

Heena.k@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 17, 2012)
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