Yahoo! Delivers Olympic Action Virally from the Games
Yahoo! has been offering editorial coverage of the Olympic Games on its Yahoo! Sports website for several years but for the first time it invited fans to become a part of the action during the 2010 Winter Games. The brand transformed a former Mini Cooper dealership in Vancouver’s Yaletown district into a cozy, fan-friendly “Fancouver” hang space filled with winter-themed sports games, photo activations and more.
Inside the former retail space retrofit to accent its exposed brick walls, rustic wood paneling and high ceiling beams, fans grabbed free hot chocolates and warmed up among slick white furnishings and faux fur rugs in the lounge area where they watched the day’s events on six HDTVs and hung out at long bars filled with more than a dozen internet-ready Macs (sports.yahoo.com is bookmarked, naturally). In the middle of the room, Yahoo! constructed a three-tiered seating platform that offered fans a comfortable place to sip drinks and rest their feet. The platform also helped conduct traffic flow around the room to all of the various activities.
At a nearby stage featuring a white mounted logo on a brick backdrop, fans caught the live action as some of Yahoo!’s 12 on-the-ground guest analysts including Olympians Sasha Cohen and Jennifer Jones conducted interviews with Olympic athletes being featured on the Yahoo! Sports webpage. At Nintendo Wii stations guests could try their skiing and snowboarding skills from the safety of a Wii Fit balance board. At 3 p.m. every day, called “Wii-o’clock” by staffers, the team gave out branded cowbells to help cheer on competitors in the daily Wii competitions. The purple cowbells were apparently hot items at the Games because people kept coming in to ask for them.
Through a first-time partnership with the IOC, Flickr hosted a public photo-sharing group called Vancouver Photo Group. Yahoo! leveraged its partnership with Flickr at photo activation stations where attendees grabbed props like sleds, snowboards, flags and ski goggles, jumped in front of a branded backdrop and had their photo taken and posted directly to Flickr’s Vancouver Photo Group page. Brand ambassadors gave all guests a quick tutorial on Flickr and invited registered Flickr users to post directly to their page. Non-Flickr users got a card with photo collection info on it. Everyone received two hard copy photos; one to take home and one to post on the giant “you” wall collage (the collage reinforced the brand’s “It’s you” marketing campaign).
To help support Yahoo!’s pitch to be the social media tool for the Games, each staffer was hired locally and given “social media breaks” throughout the course of the day so they could update their social media accounts with all the happenings. Brand ambassadors were selected, in part, based on how many Facebook and Twitter followers they have. Yahoo! launched its Fancouver space with a Twitter party.
Other fun perks in the space included mobile device charging stations made out of snowboards and a live “fan cam” where folks could text a URL to friends and then say hello via live video and audio feed while waiting in line for a photo.
At an Augmented Reality zone just outside the space’s back door, passersby were invited to stop at one of two interactive video screen displays mounted in the windows. At one, fans put their face in a cut-out and the video screen automatically superimposed objects on their heads as they moved left to right; move right to get a weather update, and wear an umbrella hat as virtual rain comes pouring down; move left for news and get a smart reporter’s fedora. Or, at the second screen, guests could grab an activated card from a brand ambassador, hold it to the window to launch the game and then maneuver the card with their hand movements to navigate a snowboarder down a fast-paced virtual run.
About 10,000 people rolled through the pop-up daily, chugging down about 7,000 cups of cocoa. One day, 13,000 people showed up—about three times what the brand expected. In addition, the Yahoo! Sports editorial team blew past projections for site traffic, even outpacing its Beijing coverage from 2008. No worries all you eagle-eyed Olympics officials. With all its fan-centric activities and bustling crowds, the Yahoo! Fancouver experience sat inside one of Vancouver’s designated celebration zones and at a respectable distance from official sponsor activations.