February 7th marked the beginning of the highly anticipated winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. While tradition still shines with the passing of the touch and the elaborate opening ceremonies, social media is still a relatively new aspect of this iconic event. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become accessible to many in their everyday lives, and they’ve given viewers at home the opportunity to be a part of the Games like never before.
Not only do we get a more in depth look at our favorite athletes, but we are able to voice our opinions about the Games as well. While this may be positive to us, the viewers at home, it is certainly not to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), whose tasks include maintaining a positive brand image and to keep controversy surrounding the Olympics low.
It was rumored in November that no athletes or spectators at the Olympic Games would be allowed to use social media while participating in the event, though this proved to be false. Participants are allowed to engage in social media, as long as they follow the rules.
The IOC have released social media, blogging, and internet guidelines for participants and viewers of the Sochi 2014 Olympics to try to minimize any potential branding blunders. This comes as no surprise, as we are all familiar with past scandals involving Olympic participants and social media. While the rules to state that they want participants to enjoy and express themselves freely, there are precautions and guidelines to follow.
While social media is allowed and encouraged, all of it must be done in the first person, it cannot disclose private information, and the content has to mirror the positive and good natured spirit of the games. Basically, you can Instagram and Tweet all you want, but it has to go along with the brand image and spirit of the games.
Protecting brand image can be a challenge, especially when it’s as large and iconic as the Olympics. This has proven to become even more of a struggle now that everyone is equipped with a camera, video recorder, and a platform for thoughts and observations. The IOC is extremely aware of the power of social media, and will continue to do their best to control it inside the arena.
Journalists do not need to follow the IOS guidelines, however. A hashtag called #SochiProblems was tweeted 26,000 times in 24 hours, often with photographic evidence of poor hotel accommodations and unsavory surprises, such as dirty tap water and a bug found in food at a restaurant. Although the IOC wants to keep the image of this years games as positive overall, they have little control over the outside media.
What we are seeing is a new dimension to the Olympic Games. These next two weeks will not just be about the competition and nationalism alone. We will continue to try to learn about the Olympic athletes’ personal lives, the Sochi living conditions, and any drama or controversy that comes our way. Not only we continue to digest the social media, but we will have our hand in participating, too. We are able to share our opinion about everything, from the opening ceremony outfits to a lackluster figure skating performance (because we’re experts, right?) The Olympic Games is no longer a spectator sport- we now have the ability to be more a part of the games than ever before.
Do you think social media could taint the brand image of the Olympic Games?