Five communication tips for sporting bodies in Olympic year

127 days remain until the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. For many of the organising federations across 28 different competition sports, the Olympics represents the greatest opportunity and challenge.

127 days remain until the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. For many of the organising federations across 28 different competition sports, the Olympics represents the greatest opportunity and challenge. An opportunity to nurture audience, develop youth participation and ride the crest of exposure which arrives just once every four years. Challenge because federations, under pressure from sponsors and to guarantee their own Olympic life, need to deliver tangible results from television figures to social media engagement. The decision many federations face is how much of a commitment, within the constraints of ever narrow budgets, should be made to communication.

We’ll look at five ways federations can leverage communication to ensure they confront these challenges head on and ultimately successfully.

1. Athletes are ambassadors.

The Olympic Games has a unique ability to create household names of out the most seemingly ordinary individuals. The farmer turned trap shooter, the accountant table tennis player or simply the debutant swimmer from Equatorial Guinea. These are the personalities who transcend the Games, the ones who in the post Games euphoria wind up on reality television shows and receive the most random advertising contracts. Athletes are ambassadors for the sport and in a partisan phenomenon like the Olympics, national media scramble over these overnight success (or not) stories. There’s nothing more frustrating for journalists, in their half hour of need, then being confronted with federation websites populated with out of date or incomplete biographical material.

In the lead up to the Olympics, build stories around your leading athletes, create content collateral through interviews, video shorts, ensure your athletes hub is up to date. Additionally, create a two-way relationship and Invest time working with the athletes to promote the sport, and encourage your ambassadors to share and become a distribution tool for your content.

2. Simplify your sport.

Usain Bolt winning the Olympic gold in 9.63 seconds is understood by everyone. Many sports are not as simple as running faster than everybody else from A to B. A to B may require going through Z first and then a convoluted scoring system through a panel of dozing judges. Certain sports like rhythmic gymnastics and sailing may have rules which are not clear to everyone. Often by the Olympics its too late to start creating this content in a panic. TV and the host broadcaster have a big responsibility in working with federations to create magazine programmes and content which can be ingested into live coverage, graphics, hiring expert technical consultants. In the lead up to the Games, federations should consider generating their own content campaigns to explain quirks of competitions from short videos to social media question and answers. Be educational, be informative.

3. Be social. Be realistic.

London 2012 was commonly dubbed the first ‘social media Olympics’. Sochi 2014 possibly saw its transition through teenage years and Rio 2016 will potentially be the first Games where social media is not simply an extension of an existing communication plan but a fully integrated service. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking social media is a box to tick at the end of your working day or the last line of your content journey. The “did you put that blog post on Facebook?” approach. Employ people to run your social media channels. Full time. Don’t squeeze existing resources or make it an extension of someone’s overworked schedule. Set strategies and realistic goals. Avoid implementing too many social media channels and trying to work the same bit of content to different audiences. Assess where your audience is, use the channels most appropriately, create dedicated content campaigns and strategies for each channel. If the same piece of key content needs to be disseminated, think of ways of personalising it for each pillar. Hashtag wisely, sensibly and with reach in mind.

4. Be clever with numbers.

Video views, Facebook shares, Instagram likes will all be crunched for post Games reporting. Remember to also celebrate numbers in a different way. One of way of making your sport accessible to a wider audience is using stats to explain nuances of your sport in a way the common person can relate to. Infographics and icons are a great way of messaging this. How much does a shot put weigh in relation to a cricket ball or an apple, how many calories is the average weightlifter burning, celebrate the evolution of records over time and the development of your sport.

5. Distribute effectively.

Content needs to be enticing. It also needs to effective and reach. Ahead of the Games ensure press release and newsletter mailing lists are updated, targeted. Create special Games-filters for temporary subscribers. Ramp up the distribution rate around the Games. Ensure your  dedicated media channel is responsive and easy to find. Ensure daily Games releases provide media with the information needed in the quickest time possible, whether it be text available as a Word download, pull out quotes which can be grabbed, images downloadable from a Lightbox gallery, embed or share information for videos easy to copy.

(Quinag, 2 April 2016)

Cover Image: Rodrigo Soldon 2 / photo on flickr