Team USA Tries to Create 'Pinsanity' on Facebook and Mobile

But Injuries to Stars Shawn White and Lindsey Vonn Should Worry Team USA and NBC

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It's been called the No. 1 specator sport during the Olympic Games. Pin trading -- the buying, selling and trading of commemorative pins at Olympic Games -- first became popular in the 1980s. It's since turned into an industry in itself -- and a sport anybody can qualify at.

Heading into Thursday's start of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the U.S.Olympic Committee has launched its first social-media and mobile game around pin trading.

Lisa Baird, CMO of the USOC, wants to use pin collecting to reach younger, social-media loving sports fans. To do so, the USOC has created its first Facebook game called "Pinsanity," that's also available on mobile and tablets.

"We're trying to be innovative and connect with new and younger consumers," said Ms. Baird. "The game has a Facebook component -- and a mobile component -- which we think will do very well."

Groundhog-themed virtual Olympic pin
Groundhog-themed virtual Olympic pin

People who participate in virtual pin trading can enter for a chance to convert online pins into real-life merchandise. For example, those who "collect" this week's pin of the week can enter for a chance to win twp official USOC baseball caps.

But Team USA and Olympic broadcaster NBC are going to have to come up with more than clever online marketing games if injuries continue to take a toll on the American athletes that viewers at home want to watch most.

Snowboarder Shaun White, Team USA's biggest star, announced he was dropping out the Winter Games's inaugural Slopestyle competition after injuring his wrist in a practice run. Mr. White said he'll still seek his third straight gold medal in the halfpipe.

Team USA and NBC previously suffered a blow when skier Lindsey Vonn dropped out due to a knee injury. The Olympics draws the highest female viewership of any sport. Ms. Vonn's absence from competition will hurt ratings, although NBC has signed her up as an on-air correspondent.

Corporate sponsors pay big money to link themselves to the Olympic Rings. But a study released Wednesday by YouGov should give them pause. According to the survey, 21% of respondents incorrectly identified Pepsi as an Olympic sponsor while 37% correctly identified Coca-Cola.

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