‘Social Games’ Notwithstanding,Traditional Media Packed an Olympic Punch

Now that the London Olympics are just a memory, I never thought I’d write this: I’m going to miss them. Not just the athletes and their performances that often gave me goosebumps—like “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius, British heptathlete hero Jessica Ennis and swimming sensations Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin.

No, I’m also going to miss #nbcfail too. You see, these were the “Social Games,” where millions of people around the world could join in conversations about their favorite athletes—or air their biggest gripes. But in all of the hype over social media, let’s not forget traditional media coverage of the Olympics. This week I received some data from Dow Jones (generated by their measurement company Factiva) on how the main Olympic sponsors fared via traditional outlets.

Not too surprisingly, McDonald’s earned the most share of voice. But it also garnered some of the most unfavorable media coverage—24% of the total coverage was negative due to the relentless mockery by the British press of the idea of a fast-food chain sponsoring the ultra-healthy Olympics, and outrage at the company’s efforts to block other food vendors at the Olympics from selling the “chips” part of the traditional English staple, fish and chips.

Coca-Cola (18% negative coverage) was in a similar boat, criticized for its unhealthy traits during a decidedly healthy games. Both Coke and Visa (which saw 17% of its mentions unfavorable) had to deal with criticism of their receiving large allotments of tickets when it became apparent that the seats at many events were going unused. Visa also had to contend with the backlash to their policy of ensuring only Visa cards and Visa-only cash machines could be used at Olympic venues.

Suffice to say, there were some big crises generated via social media during the Games, much of it centering around NBC’s coverage and ill-timed tweets by athletes. Still, much of the negativity around the Olympics was generated the old-fashioned way, meaning traditional media still packs a punch and shouldn’t be ignored in favor of social platforms.

—Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01