Global Newsmaker: Mark Adams

The inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) get underway in Singapore later this month. International Olympic Committee director of communications, Mark Adams talks about reaching a younger audience and raising awareness of an unknown event.

Mark Adams
Mark Adams
What PR strategies have been used to build awareness and raise the profile of the YOG?

Clearly with the YOG we are trying to reach a younger audience, not just the athletes but young people who will take part in sport and also spectators. So it’s no surprise that social media figures very highly in what we’re doing to try and reach those audiences. In no particular order, we have a big presence on Facebook - which started off at the Olympic Games in Vancouver – we now have our own YOG Facebook page, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. We’ve also been running various other initiatives, for example, we’re about to announce the winner of a photography competition we ran on Flickr where the winner will go to the Games as a fully accredited photographer and will also be offered training with a professional photographer on site. On YouTube we have a number of channels and you will also be able to watch online coverage of the Games anywhere in the world - so we’re trying to engage people in a rich way. We are also not neglecting the more traditional things, we are working with different stakeholder groups such as international sports federations and Olympic committees to offer them material for their websites and social media etc. We are also working with traditional media, very often using stories that are launched from the social media side.

It is the inaugural YOG, what are the challenges you face raising awareness for a new Olympic event?

The challenges are quite obvious in that respect, it’s always difficult when people haven’t seen something or seen how it works to try and enthuse them about it. The Olympics have developed over many years but in one sense the YOG is the biggest change since we introduced the Winter Olympics. So it is a challenge to enthuse the Olympic audience about something new and on top of that it’s a challenge to engage a young audience, who are in many cases, not always aware of the Olympics – as you get older you see more and more editions and it becomes more recognisable. I think with YOG it’s going to start small and build. We are working with the fact that people love the Olympics – which they clear do – it is one of the most recognised brands in the world bar none, with something like 99 per cent recognition, on average.

Looking forward to London 2012, how important is the YOG in raising global awareness for the Olympics as a whole?

I think London 2012 is doing a fantastic job and the Olympic profile has been raised incredibly. I think it’s more a case of the YOG building on what people know about the Olympics, rather than the other way round – although it would be nice to think that the Youth Olympics could push a younger audience towards London.

How has digital and social media tools transformed the way you run campaigns?

On top of the social media activity mentioned above, we also have three Olympians working as ambassadors for the YOG: Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Yelena Isinbayeva. We are using them mercilessly for promotions. For example, we recently did some filming with Bolt in Jamaica and we are about to put out a YouTube video where he’s asking people to put together their music playlists (he loves DJing) and he’s wearing his YOG T-shirt.

What are your media must-haves, digital/print?

The Olympics is so ubiquitous that you kind of have to follow everything – which is clearly impossible. We have an in-house media monitoring system but we have such a huge footprint that we really have to try and follow just about everything that is happening, anywhere in the world – so it's quite difficult to name specifics.

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