GE: Olympics Will Be ‘Most Digital’ in History

Brand strikes Facebook ads deal for Summer Games, tinkers with Pinterest and Viddy.

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Like in recent Olympics, General Electric promises an extensive advertising playbook for next month’s London Games. What makes this year different, suggested Linda Boff, digital and advertising director at GE, is a heightened focus on utilizing digital and social channels to augment traditional ad buys. In fact, Boff said she “cannot see” a scenario unfolding where brands across the spectrum ignore spending resources on platforms that have come of age since the 2010 Winter Games.  

“Twitter was not what it is now,” she said of the 2012 media landspace versus the Winter Games in 2010. “Facebook was certainly not at 900 million users. There was no such thing as Pinterest or Viddy. Instagram was a twinkle in people’s eye…This will be the most digital and the most social Games in history.”

Due to scale, Facebook unsurprisingly lies at the center of GE’s Olympics social media plans. The companies announced a marketing deal on Tuesday (June 19) that includes Sponsored Stories ad buys and a “HealthyShare” app. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The HealthyShare app is designed to leverage GE’s partnerships with U.S. Olympic hopefuls Kevin Durant (men’s basketball) and Alex Morgan (women’s soccer), as well as former Olympians Michael Johnson and Summer Sanders. It encourages consumers to mimic the athletes’ exercise routines, such as push-ups, sprints, lunges and yoga.

“We are going to promote this quite broadly,” Boff said. In addition to pushing the app via Sponsored Stories, “we are using all kinds of social and earned media to get the word out across various platforms.”

When the London Games begin on July 27, GE is also planning to run Twitter ads and paid search, per Boff. Earned media efforts on Pinterest, Viddy, and Instagram will also be deployed.

In all cases, GE won’t promote consumer-facing products like light bulbs or refrigerators. Instead, the Schenectady, NY-based giant wants to highlight how it supplies hospitals with a wide range of medical technology in a so-called b-to-b-to-c marketing effort. It builds on the company’s “Healthymagination” campaign for the 2010 Games.

“Our reputation, our brand, in terms of how people think about GE in the broader sense…really matters to us,” Boff said. “In past Olympics, we’ve really leaned into what GE does in terms of health. We’ve done that in the past through our television advertising as a way to make a connection with consumers.”

The GE exec thinks Facebook is the platform to help further drive that messaging into the American consumer psyche. "We fundamentally believe in health as a mantra," Boff said, "and that's why we're giving people a tool like HealthyShare to connect with their friends on good health."

Meanwhile, GE’s Facebook partnership probably marks the beginning to the final phase of major Olympics-based branding efforts coming forth. Companies like Procter & Gamble, British Airways and Samsung have been rolling out campaigns for the Summer Games since at least April.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.