Did Social Media Enhance or Spoil Olympic Coverage?

As a brand marketer, I have felt sympathetic to all the criticism via #NBCFail that the network is getting about delaying coverage to prime time. This year we can watch Olympics all day long on NBC, NBC Sports Network and MSNBC as well as view streams of live events on digital platforms. I found myself getting into archery on Saturday afternoon, a sport I would have never sought out before. If it were not for the ad dollars supporting the large crew on the ground, we know this depth of coverage would never be available to us.

Yes, I admit it is not as much fun knowing who won on Twitter before watching it live, and NBC could have done a better job of not promoting the medal winner on the morning show right before the event aired, but the truth is, I would never be able to watch in real-time anyways due to work. Thus, I would have to set my DVR and still watch it after the results were in. I do get annoyed when some of the top events are so late at night and I wish the timeframes of which sports will air when was clearer; however, they sucked me in and delivered the ultimate marketing event for brands (the first five nights averaged 35.6 million viewers). I give the marketers credit for putting forth more interesting content that is less commercial about the athletes, thereby precipitating a more genuine connections to brands.

Unless we want to pay even more for cable and live content going forward, we will have to put up with less than perfect coverage and with social media revealing things in advance.  There is no perfect formula yet, as the accession of social media and its effect on live entertainment is still relatively new, but, for most of us, the Olympics remain a moment of pride and enjoyment as we watch so many young people achieve speeds and master sports at levels we could never fathom. Moving forward, we can bask in the glory and excitement of the moment or critique the coverage and complain about our Twitter feed reveals. I choose to get sucked in and stay deprived of sleep. How about you?

Barri Rafferty is Ketchum’s former CEO and current head of communications at Wells Fargo.