Rio Olympics to break new ground with technology and social media

With the Rio Olympics officially kicking off this week, official sponsors are putting the final touches on their execution strategies and unofficial sponsors are determining how best to crash the festivities without running afoul of federal law. Included in this Olympics push is the continued leveraging of social media and technology to bring consumers even closer to the experience.

Here’s a look at what you can expect:


The newest consumer-focused technology at the Olympics, virtual reality, continues to experiment with how best to bring fans unique and immersive views of sporting competition. The Olympics Broadcasting Services (OBS), created by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2001 to serve as the host broadcaster for the Games, is planning 85 hours of VR programming, including the opening and closing ceremonies, men’s basketball — including the semifinals and final — gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing.

Domestically, NBC is showing viewers accessing this content via their Samsung devices how VR can succeed where tech like 3D has failed. Per NBC’s president of the Olympics, Gary Zenkel: “The world’s greatest sporting event is always a showcase for cutting-edge technology, and we’re thrilled to partner with Samsung and OBS to bring our viewers even closer to compelling Olympic action with virtual reality,”

Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Social Media

Since we last saw the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, social media has continued to play an integral role in how people consume sports. While Facebook has been a part of the Olympics before, this will be Instagram’s first partnership with NBC for the Games.

On the Facebook side, Facebook Live will be bringing interviews with athletes and commentators while sharing short-form videos with Instagram. This highlights the trend of bringing behind-the-scenes content to fans and giving them previously unseen looks at not only major events, but also the athletes and individuals responsible for putting them on.

Of course, the rise of new technology may become problematic in the case of live streaming apps like Periscope. With fans being able to broadcast their own versions of the events for the world to see, there’s a possibility that the access official partners provide becomes diminished and/or infringed upon.

Additionally,  social media provides an easy pathway for brands not officially affiliated with the Olympics to piggyback on top of the attention and spectacle of the Games. While the USOC has counseled non-official sponsors to stay away from Olympic-themed posts, and words like “Team USA,” savvy companies will still be able to leverage the excitement surrounding the competition.

Note: See Fields of Green’s discussion of Rule 40.

Overall, technology is bringing consumers an unprecedented look at the Rio Olympic Games. It’s on brands and bodies such as the USOC to ensure that the technology being utilized to provide that look continues to protect partnerships while creating more opportunities for engagement.