The Data Olympics

Walk through my company’s headquarters, open the fire escape in our CEO’s office, lean out on tippy toes, and, if you are taller than six feet, you can see the London 2012 Olympic Stadium glistening in the rain.

We are now a couple of days away from the greatest show on earth kicking off in my home town and I’m genuinely excited about welcoming the world to my neighborhood and seeing if the eighth laziest nation in the world can pull off the greatest of sporting spectacles.

As a data guy, one of the things that excites me, in addition to Usain Bolt or the Norwegian women’s volleyball team, is to see what uses of data athletes, broadcasters, and sponsors will come up with.

After the games we may find out what the Kaizen-style data analysis secrets are of the Team GB cycling team and I’m hoping for some great data visualizations by broadcasters, like IBM did for this year’s Wimbledon.

Here’s a great start – check out this picture of the biggest data dashboard in London (is there one bigger in the world?), which uses Twitter sentiment analysis to light up a great city landmark, the London Eye, and gauge Londoner’s enthusiasm for the games.


But it is the sponsors who are already out there, using interest in the games and associated social events to harvest customer data. I took a look this week at some of the ways the main London 2012 sponsors are utilizing data to help them understand if their media spend is working. I’m hoping most of them are keeping their powder dry until the starting gun sounds because only Coca-Cola seems to be utilizing the games to gather more customer data, gaining the potential to learn more about its customers and find out which advertising has been most effective.

Coca-Cola is utilizing its fan Coke Zone website as the hub of its social Olympics marketing. You sign up through Facebook or provide mobile and email details and in return get a chance to win local concert and Games tickets. I can tell you from personal experience that getting ahold of tickets has been a nightmare so to be able to use a ticket competition is a great attraction for a brand right now. As a loyalty program it also encourages multi-channel data collection by linking voucher codes on your Coke can to your online profile.


The site runs polls to give free points but right now it seems to be more about engagement than great insight questions that would help Coca-Cola improve its marketing.

So how should Coke be using this rich source of data? I’d expect the company to be beavering away on the following areas:

  • You have the data from the Facebook API and have linked that to your own loyalty database. So how about answering the question of the decade – what is the value of a Facebook fan? And has the Olympic sponsorship increased fan value? You have claimed purchases and also redeemed points, so a fairly simple value analysis should be possible.
  • In the information age, is your Coke Zone site providing the content that people want? What were the most popular content pages and which of these did your high-value fans use?
  • I bet you’ve seen a spike in membership in the last few weeks, so you can use this to turn your fan base into a customer research and insight panel. Contact them with further polls to help you research how your advertising is working and what offers and products are going to engage people during the games.
  • Did localized content at an Olympic venue encourage purchase? I’m expecting to be targeted when they geo-locate me on The Mall watching beach volleyball.
  • Remember that to do all this you need analytics tools that are fit for the purpose (and the Coke Zone website tracking looks a bit basic, by the way).

So all the prep and talk is done, but for data analysts, rather than this being the final sprint, this is where the hard work should be beginning to show if this marketing spend is going to be worth it.

I really hope it’s a brilliant six weeks. Welcome to London, but do bring a brolly!

London Eye in Night image via Karol Kozlowski /

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