Data Research Pays Off at the London Olympics

by   |   August 10, 2012 4:59 pm   |   0 Comments

Olga Spaic, manager of analytics at Metia

Olga Spaic, manager of analytics at Metia

All eyes have been focused on the Olympics the past couple of weeks.  One of the most common stats seen across media outlets is the latest medal count—which country will ultimately win the most gold medals?

Behind the scenes though, there is a lot more data being collected and analyzed.  In fact, some have dubbed this Olympics as one of the first “big data” Games based on the sheer volume of data being collected:

  • 60GB of information per second will flow over British Telecom’s networks, the equivalent of all of Wikipedia every 5 seconds.
  • This is Twitter’s first official sponsorship of an event of this magnitude, and more than 13,000 tweets per second will be posted during the Games, while more than 15TB+ of data will be collected across Facebook each day.
  • 1 billion people will visit the official Olympic Games website.
  • They will use more than 8.5 billion devices to connect to the Olympics across various platforms.

NetApp created an infographic with these and more data. What insights can businesses take away from this data deluge?

Audience Research Pivotal for Event Execution

One of the largest worldwide research organizations, Nielsen, has been running research studies for the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games for the past three years.  Their research has measured public attitudes and opinions in a State of the Nation tracking study, influenced the choice of mascot for the Games, informed the ticket pricing mechanism (though apparently problems with ticket allocation continued despite these research efforts, as The Guardian reported). The research also helped determine the best way to organize the volunteer corps at the Olympic Park.  During the Games, Nielsen deployed research techniques including mobile and app-based surveys to measure spectator sentiment at each event.  Nielsen’s efforts have been so successful that organizers of future Olympics have already reached out to the company for assistance, according to Research Magazine.

Key lesson:  Research cannot operate in a vacuum.  Though Nielsen designed a tracking study to measure public opinions that was based on a “representative” sample of the U.K. population, the company also analyzed sentiment across social channels to fill in the gaps.  Regardless of the size and complexity of your marketing initiative (such as an event, campaign or contest), the best insights come from multiple data sources.

Data Trumps a Vocal Minority

An even more fascinating look at the data is NBC’s Olympics Lab. The media provider is gathering an astounding amount of information.  Just think about this:  the network is broadcasting 835 hours of programming on six different channels, over 3,000 hours of live-streaming on their Olympics website and over 3,200 hours via mobile and tablet channels.  Every single user visit, click, and comment is being tracked and analyzed on NBC’s websites as well as the user panels being run by comScore and Google, NBC’s research partners.

One of the more interesting aspects of this research is a look at the so-called “simultaneous media user”—as mobile and tablet technologies have developed over the past few Olympic Games, the NBC research team has seen a significant impact of these users on overall viewing behavior and engagement. This is especially important as digital media channels are often preferred by younger generations, who were previously thought of as uninterested in the Olympics.  Despite criticism the network has received for its delay-to-prime-time coverage, their research has actually shown that viewers were likely to tune into the prime time coverage despite knowing the results for specific events.  Ratings and advertising revenue are through the roof compared to prior Olympics, The Boston Globe reported. It seems that some of these multi-channel viewers watch live events during the day on their tablets or mobile phones and then tune in to the extended TV coverage at home.

Key lesson:  Research results can run contrary to the vocal minority (after all, only 8 percent of the US population is on Twitter).  Though the Twittersphere coined #nbcfail, NBC executives chose to rely on findings from its Research Lab to inform its programming decisions, and the company continues to focus its resources on prime time coverage. Those clicks on mice, tablets and remotes are confirming for NBC that viewers are tuning in.

Big data can be a big challenge. But it can also deliver big insights. Digging past the noise of a vocal minority to investigate actual user behavior can flip your perspective dramatically. Go into your event or campaign with a strong and diverse data strategy.

Olga Spaic is manager of analytics at Metia, a digital marketing agency. Follow her on Twitter: @ospaic

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