Facebook Takes Aim at Twitter With Olympics Branded Page

Not to be outdone by Twitter, Facebook has built a new type of branded events page for the 2012 London Olympics, which it announced at a June 18 event in London. 

The page—which notably lacks sidebar ads, comments and discussion boxes—features three different sections related to the games. The first section lists 170 prominent athletes and coaches—such as Michael Phelps and Mike "Coach K" Krzyzewksi—with a photo and links to each athlete's Facebook page.

A second section scrolls through pages for 58 national teams and organizations, from the U.S. Olympic Team's page with over 2 million likes to the Cayman Islands' Olympic Committee's page, which has just 369 likes. At the bottom, a third section highlights pages for each Olympic sport, most of which are run by an international federation organization of that particular sport.

There is also a link to a traditional Facebook brand page for the Olympic Games run by the International Olympic Committee, which has 2.8 million likes. (The IOC is broadly supportive of Facebook's new venture, but it is not a commercial partnership, reports The Next Web.) The difference between the new offering and the preexisting brand page is that the new page was designed as a hub and guide for directing traffic to other Facebook pages, while the original page was meant for engagement.

On June 10, Twitter ran its first-ever TV ads during the Pocono 400 to promote its #NASCAR landing page for organizing Twitter content related to the race. Powered by Twitter's hashtag system, the hashtag landing page organizes massive amounts of data around a single event.

While Twitter may have a leg up on Facebook in content aggregation around hashtags, Facebook is still ahead in global mainstream adoption. Rackspace's Robert Scoble tweeted that "the IOC says a Twitter and Google+ page is coming too—but it is clear the Facebook effort is a bigger deal because of the audience size."

This new Olympics page appears to be Facebook’s response to Twitter's branded hashtag effort. While the page itself generates neither fan discussion nor advertising revenue, it should succeed at driving fans to the specific pages of the athletes, teams and sports they’re most interested in. (Because Facebook’s new portal is not an official partnership, it can't benefit financially from running ads alongside Olympic-themed content, says The Next Web). This high-profile Olympics page from Facebook could very well be its show model for future partnerships with brands that hold large-scale events.  

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg