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Canadian Olympic Committee takes gold in social media

The London 2012 Olympics ignited the global social graph in a way no other event ever has. Fans from around the world were following their Olympic teams on Facebook, keeping tabs on their favourite athletes on Twitter and sharing in the emotional highs and lows of victory and defeat.

Canada was no exception. The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) focused a significant portion of its marketing efforts on social media through its 'Give Your Everything' campaign which really struck a chord with Canadians. And the big change from previous Games was the engagement on Twitter. More than 31 million people viewed content on Twitter and the COC's follower base grew by 350 per cent.

With 38,000 followers on Twitter and more than 214,000 fans on Facebook, the Canadian Olympic team was one of the most socially active at the London Games. Videos on the COC's YouTube channel featuring a variety of Canadian athletes have been viewed more than 265,000 times.

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I interviewed Derek Kent, the chief marketing officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, to get an insider's perspective on what made the London 2012 Olympics one of the biggest social media events the world has ever seen, and to talk about how Canadian athletes and fans got involved via social.

"Our athletes were at the heart of the 'Give Your Everything' campaign," Kent said.

"We grounded it on the insight that we would be authentic to the voice of the athlete. The strategy was designed to leverage all of our platforms to tell our athletes' stories."

Part of the story was told by the COC through social media, digital and traditional advertising and the rest was told by the athletes themselves.

In addition to the Canadian Olympic Team social media profiles, more than 20 per cent of the 277 Canadian athletes updated their fans on personal Facebook pages and about two thirds of them shared their experiences via Twitter.

"We are so proud of the overwhelming response our athletes received," said Kent. "The main goal was to help make the Canadian athletes household names."

From a platform perspective, a lot of the credit for the proliferation of social media at the London games can be attributed to Twitter. At the time of the Beijing Olympics In 2008, Twitter only had about six million users – the number now is comfortably over 500 million.

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Although considerably less drastic, Kent also sees the differences between London and Vancouver.

"In Vancouver there were athletes on Twitter, but not to the degree that they are involved and engaged now. A great example of that engagement was when Rosie won Gold. Her Twitter followers skyrocketed to 13,000."

The efforts of the COC don't stop just because the Olympics are over. Only weeks after getting back from London, the team is already setting its sights on what's next and will continue to put a lot of stock in digital and social media as the best ways to unite Canadians and their athletes.

"We are just getting started," Kent says. "Watch this space. We already have plans on the drawing board for Sochi!"

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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