Social, Mobile and Urban – The Games come to London

Much has been written about the London Games being the first socialympics, but as this picture of the Olympic torch relay passing through South London illustrates, social is increasingly mobile.

Think about it.  What’s the first thing you do when you see something out of the ordinary? You take your phone out of your pocket to capture what’s going on. From road accidents to flash mobs, laser shows to Olympic torches: as soon as we see it, we snap it and share it.

Although I’ve been stuck at work several miles away from the torch relay, I’ve been able to track its progress through Facebook, as friends and relatives share images of its progression through London on their timelines.  This created a unique stream of images that enabled me to experience the relay in a far more personal way than would have previously been possible.

The other notable feature about the images, (which incidentally were taken by my 10 year old son, who seems to have discovered his vocation in life at an early age), is that they reflect diverse, urban communities getting caught up in the Olympic spirit. This will be hugely reassuring to LOCOG as it was always the great hope of the London games.

Sebastian Coe famously promised to deliver an inclusive Olympics that would leave a lasting legacy among London’s most disadvantaged communities. These images provide evidence that diverse communities in urban areas are coming together to celebrate the games, but the true legacy and impact of the games remains to be seen.

The Urban Olympics

The urban flavour of the London games has been reflected in some of the advertising surrounding the event. A notable example is the Adidas campaign, which began with Wretch 32 inviting us to ‘Take the Stage’.

Channel 4’s exceptional 90-second film ‘Meet The Superhumans’ uses the appropriately titled Public Enemy track ‘Harder Than You Think’. Overall the London games already feel more urban than either Beijing or Sydney, which is exactly as it should be.

Ironically, the brand that is communicating its urban credentials most effectively is Nike, a notable non-Olympic sponsor. (Full disclosure: Nike is an Engine client). In the run up to the games Nike has gone into overdrive to build connections with London’s diverse communities.

Alongside a massive out of home, print and digital campaign, Nike has been staging events such as the World Basketball Festival in Brixton. This involved erecting a full size Basketball court in Windrush Square and hosting a concert in the O2 Academy featuring Dot Rotten, Angel, and the Miami Heat Street Band among others.

This was closely followed by Nike’s first-ever women’s training festival at Thames-side. The most spectacular event was Nike Fuel Fest in Battersea Power Station, featuring live performances from UK artists Tinie Tempah, Zane Lowe and Magnetic Man.

These experiential events build connections with urban consumers in ways that go far deeper than adverts blandly proclaiming to be supporting Britain during the games.

Just as importantly, the events got people to take their phones out of their pockets to capture and share the experience, and that is the name of the game.

For more comment and opinion on the London 2012 Games, see Engine’s Olympic site

UPDATE: Nike has upped the ante with its ‘Find Your Greatness’ ad, which states: “Greatness is not in one special place..” I wonder what that could be referring to..?

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