Six key digisport trends for the 2016 Olympics in Rio

The Olympics are close. Once again, Rio 2016 will see records broken, lives changed and endeavour pushed to its limit.
You could say the same of digital and social media.
Four years is a lifetime in this arena. Meanwhile Barcelona ‘92 and Seoul ‘88 may as well be Athens ‘96 – 1896 that is. Even compared to London 2012, there will be massive changes in Rio.

Here’s my take on the digital/social landscape.

Branded content can go out during the Games… kinda
You should have already seen the effects of changes to the “Rule 40” guidelines. This Olympic regulation used to prevent athletes promoting non-official sponsors during the window of the Games. But those rules were ‘relaxed’ earlier this year meaning that non-sponsors could request a waiver. However their campaigns had to run “continuously, starting no later than March 27”.

Sprinter Dawn Harper tweeted her displeasure at Rule 40 in 2012

Sprinter Dawn Harper tweeted her displeasure at Rule 40 in 2012

Brands still cannot reference Olympic results or accomplishments. Well-wishing or congratulating with direct reference to their event achievement is also not allowed.
The issue came to a head in London 2012, arguably the first social media Olympics. Athletes could not thank sponsors. Sponsors could not congratulate athletes. Both sides pushed for change.
The new arrangement is being presented as loosening of rules but it may well be the opposite. Still, it is certainly new to have this much clarity and the game-changer for brands/athletes is that the window during the games is now open.
Expect pushing and pulling, rule-bending and innovation.
VR content could make the podium
Ok, so your television and phone will be screen No1 and No2 during Rio. You can decide the order. But, for the first time, virtual reality coverage from a major sports event will be widely available. NBC have announced they will be showing 85 hours of content to “authenticated users with compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphones”.
NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel said: “Olympic fans can be transported to iconic venues such as Maracana Stadium for an unprecedented view of the Opening Ceremony, and Copacabana Beach for an immersive beach volleyball experience in the sport’s ultimate setting.”
This could be the first occasion VR content makes a mainstream breakthrough. The Olympics is always capable of having a 'catapult effect'.
Olympics – a unique legacy for content creators
Even the World Cup can not match the Olympics for history and global significance. And, while the “beautiful game” has seen its reputation tarnished, perhaps irreparably, in recent FIFA scandals, the Games still possess admirable “ideals”. The Olympics has had its fair share of skullduggery of course but it retains a sufficient amount of its ‘swifter, stronger and higher’ purpose.
Their official content exploits this superbly. Here is a simple yet striking clip showing, in just 12 seconds, the growth in human capability and achievement that maybe only the Olympics can truly propel.
No other sports organization has this resonance. Early signs are the official channel will use this in the most engaging way possible.

Snapchat can get to the top floor
Snapchat was less than a year when the torch was lit in London. Could this Olympics propel it to the forefront of the social media conversation? The “ghostface” has had an increasingly influential voice for a few years now but, when it comes to major events, news operations still tend to reflect the older guard.
The majority of athletes will be at the centre of the app’s Millennial user demographic. If the best content goes there then the attention will follow, first from the public then from the media and, finally, from brands.
In a huge step for the social media platform, Snapchat will create a daily “live story” using content from athletes, fans and NBC. It is the first time to the US network had agreed to share video of the Games.
Meanwhile US hurdler Lolo Jones has already been signed up to make Snapchat ads for Red Bull. The first of many such deals.

The first mobile games? Certainly the first mobile video games
I was lucky enough to see Usain Bolt’s 100m victory in London four years ago and I recorded video of it on my phone. Periscope, Meerkat and Facebook Live were not around so frankly it was the only option.
My memory somewhat disputes this but London has been remembered as the inaugural social media games while Rio is projected to be the first mobile games.
It may have come from this Facebook survey of 14,371 people, age 18-55, across 17 countries, where 64 per cent where going to use their mobile device for news on the Games and 51 per cent would watch replays that way. You could multiply those figures by 1.3 for Millennials.
Having over half of this survey catching up via handheld suggest this will be certainly the first video mobile games and perhaps the first live video mobile games.

The Olympics will be a content platform

The Olympic Channel will launch a digital channel sometime in 2016 with content available on-demand all-year around. To feed this media beast, it has already confirmed content-sharing agreements with 27 sports federations.
A release in June said: “The Channel will broadcast live sports events, news and athlete stories, as well as historical Olympic footage and official films from the IOC’s archives. There will also be a focus on educational and youth-oriented programming, sustainability, sports science and nutrition, and promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.”
With this move the Olympics is moving into the same territory as NFL, MLB, NBA – networks that produce and distribute content 24/7, 365. However it is more important for a competition that occurs every four years.
For the first time, Rio 2016 will leave a lasting legacy of digital content.

* The MrRichardClarke digital sport newsletter is coming soon . Sign up here