Olympics’ Agency Predicts Summer Games Will Be ‘Largest Social Media Event Ever’

VML's Brian Yamada on IOC's campaign

Headshot of Christopher Heine

CANNES, France—WPP-owned VML has been running public service announcements for the past couple of months for the International Olympic Committee, including multilingual voiceover work from the likes of Uma Thurman (English), Juliette Binoche (French), Paz Vega (Spanish) and Taís Araújo (Portuguese). To give the campaign a global feel, VML is also using music from various continents performed by Yuna (Asia), Lenny Kravitz (Americas), Nneka (Africa), Corinne Bailey Rae (Europe) and Darren Hart (Australia). 

The effort entails a series of four films in 90-second, 30-second and 15-second formats that are available to media rights holders for TV and digital distribution. Starting Monday, it's using #OlympicPeace on social media to spread the word even more going into the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, later this summer.

Speaking at Cannes today, Brian Yamada, VML chief innovation officer, said he expects the 2016 Olympics to be the "largest social media event ever." He made the declaration while chatting onstage with IOC head of marketing Melinda May.

Before the event, we caught up with Yamada to discuss the PSA-style effort, "Together We Can Change the World," as well as social media around the Olympics.

Adweek: What's the core message of the PSA?

Brian Yamada: The PSA films feature the line "Together we can change the world" as a platform to deliver a message of how sport can foster a sense of hope and togetherness—the kind of togetherness that can make a real difference, with sport being a great unifier across people and cultures.

Everyone is familiar with the Olympic Games but likely does not understand the purpose of the games or the Olympic movement overall. Our vision for the PSA platform was to help communicate that part of the story and give people globally an opportunity to participate.

But is the chief objective to drive TV viewership?

Not really. The Olympic Games will have tremendous reach via broadcast and digital streaming and driving huge social conversation on its own. This campaign will help to fuel that, but that's not really the chief objective. The campaign is meant to inspire, evoke emotion and engage people around the globe. In sharing this message with the world, the IOC aims to demonstrate that the Olympic values are here to light a torch for all of us. The Olympic movement is here to break down walls and build bridges, and through this emotive campaign, we hope audiences will be inspired to learn more and do more. 

Will Facebook ads be a big part of this?

With its global reach, Facebook plays an obvious role for distribution of the Olympic message, and specific to the PSA will be a key role for the #OlympicPeace activation. But the distribution of the video will be carried primarily by the broadcast partners, who will air on linear and their own digital platforms.

Tell us about the Olympic movement, as you call it. What exactly is that?

The Olympic movement places sport at the service of humankind as a lesson in respect, in honoring one another, in striving for excellence and in celebrating friendship that brings humanity together.  

You also talk about the "social movement" for this campaign. 

Historically, the Olympic Games were experienced through more traditional channels. Social media has become a part of the way audiences consume and engage with live sports as well as brands and organizations. We wanted to make sure that the PSA was not just a one-way communication but created ways for people globally to participate—to engage and understand more of the movement and purpose and lend their voice in support of #OlympicPeace.

So, VML is advising the IOC for social media.

Yes, we are working with the IOC on global social media strategy.

The world is increasingly at unease due to terror attacks and other uncertainties. Will VML help guide the IOC in terms of crisis management if need be?

No, we are focused on platforms such as the PSA and social.    

Check out Yamada and his team's work below:

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