The first TV ad narrated by actor Morgan Freeman, made its debut
earlier this month. Called "The Difference," it features triumphant
moments in Olympic history -- from Russian pole vaulter Yelena
Isinbayeva's record-breaking jump to gymnast Nadia Comaneci's
perfect 10. It ends with video of Mr. Phelps' 100-meter butterfly
win for his seventh gold medal in Beijing. As Mr. Phelps touches
the wall just fingertips ahead of his competitor, Mr. Freeman
intones: "When we come together to cheer, as one [Mr. Freeman
chuckles], we know what happens. ... Join our global cheer."
The Olympic campaign flies under Visa's "Go World" Olympic
theme, maintaining the same visual style with sepia and gold tones,
as well as retaining Mr. Freeman as narrator. "Go World," launched
just before the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has performed well,
resulting in double-digit growth in consumer perception and return
on investment when compared with non-Olympic campaigns, Mr. Burke
As part of the online cheer effort, fans have been asked to
upload a text, photo or video cheer they've created for the
athletes. Visa's Facebook page will serve as the global hub of the
collection of consumer-submitted cheers and athletes' responses, as
well as behind-the-scenes videos of the athletes' stories and
training. Fans can also submit "one-click cheers" online or via
mobile on social media including YouTube or through partner sites
such as Yahoo and Sports Illustrated. Over the next several months,
Team Visa athletes will also reach out to their social networks as
de facto Visa cheer ambassadors with stories of how encouragement
from fans helps them.
The online cheers, submitted by fans during a promotion that
runs through June 15, will be used for at least one, and possibly
several, congratulatory ads to be run during the Olympics in Late
July and August, Mr. Burke said.
Visa's "social at its core" approach is prudent, given social
media is expected to play a much bigger part in the London games
than it did four years ago. Although Facebook and Twitter were used
at the Beijing games, with just 100 million and 6 million users,
respectively, they were not as mainstream as today. Today, Facebook
counts some 900 million users, while there are more than 100
million users on Twitter. The two social-media services have also
been officially sanctioned and integrated for the first time by the
IOC at the online Olympic Athletes' Hub where fans can "like" or
"follow" a myriad of global athletes.
Visa isn't the first to tout the continuing shift to an
engagement strategy that emphasizes digital and social media,
rather than traditional media outlets.
"Fewer and fewer advertisers will start their strategic
marketing planning with a television advertisement in mind,"
PepsiCo's global head of digital, Shiv Singh, recently wrote in the
Harvard Business Review.
This year's Super Bowl also put that strategy on display.
Coca-Cola's polar bears spanned TV, online and social media, while
Audi let social-media fans "unlock" its TV ad by completing a
puzzle on Facebook days before the big game.
"It's not necessarily easy to pull this off unless you're a
gigantic brand and you're building around something big like the
Olympics," said Marty Weintraub, CEO of integrated social agency
"For years we've seen consumer brands testing to consumers on
places like Facebook and LinkedIn," Mr. Weintraub added. "The
concept of crowdsourcing is not new. ... YouTube is littered with
half-ass commercials and promotions created by consumers where the
commercial was going to be an ad at the center of a campaign."
While building out the campaign from a social strategy is a
first for Visa, it's not an experiment but a sign of things to
come. Mr. Burke said, "Will every campaign be social by design?
There's a very good chance of that . But definitely every program
will incorporate a social strategy and that 's always a question
Visa will measure the success of the campaign using several
traditional gauges like business metrics such as transactions, card
activations and usage; brand-equity measures such as awareness and
perception; as well as the satisfaction of clients such as its
merchants and banks. Social engagement is the fourth measure, and
particularly important in this campaign. Visa will measure likes,
video views, uploads of cheers and shares to gauge success.
"It started with: How can we facilitate a global conversation
and engage with consumers around the world in what is truly one of
the most celebrated events?" Mr. Burke said. "We use what we call
an "audience-first approach' to our planning and developing a plan
that is social by design is a new direction for us. We certainly
have a global social-media plan, but what the Olympics allows us to
do is to have a global conversation and bring the world together to
cheer as one, whereas often our initiatives are more local or
specific to a geography."