Mid-Game Lenovo Athlete Blogger Update

Welcome to the last week of the Beijing Olympics. I wanted to look at how the heart of our online activation of our sponsorship is going, and let you know about some good content being generated by the athletes.

First, for some background on the project, we issued a press release today that can be found here at MarketWatch. The nut of the release is:

“Lenovo has provided IdeaPad and other notebook PCs and video cameras to more than 100 athletes from more than 25 countries and 29 sports who are participating in the program. Their blogs are presented on the website www.lenovo.com/voicesofthegames. To date, there have been 1,374 athlete postings on the forum, reaching more than 8.5 million Olympic fans through conversations on third-party blogs and social media sites.”

This is a pretty complex social media play, so bear with me.

  1. These are athlete owned and produced blogs. Lenovo has no editorial oversight on what they write and photograph. The only guideline applied is the IOC’s Rule 41. These are the first Games where athletes have been permitted to blog after the opening ceremonies, and so far there have been few to no restrictions applied.
  2. The plan is to aggregate – or collect in one place – all the blog posts, biographies of the athletes, and provide linkage to …
    1. A YouTube channel: LenovoAthleteBlogger
    2. A Flickr photoset
    3. A Twitter stream: Lenovo2008
  3. Lenovo promotes the primary page – http://www.lenovo.com/voicesofthegames or summergames.lenovo.com – through a banner campaign on Federated Media’s network of blogs. Promote blogs on blogs, right? Right, so we’re building dynamic banners that refresh with the content posted by the athletes and running it automatically through the Federated network.
  4. In Europe the European Broadcast Union is hosting most, if not all, of the country specific video of the Games. We’re a primary sponsor, running pre-roll and display ads to the tune of many, many millions of impressions. Due to IP targeting, this program is only visible in Europe. Those clicks are going to the Voices of the Olympic Games page.
  5. In the US there is a major program in place on NBCOlympics.com. Those clicks are not going to the bloggers, but a landing page on Lenovo.com that explains our sponsorship of the Games and role as the lead technology provider and designer of the Olympic torch.
  6. We’re running paid search and bidding on some Olympic terms and sports related to our bloggers and their sports. The idea is to find the athletes’ fans and make them aware that a channel exists for them to follow their favorite sport.

How to declare success? I think there are three vectors to success in this program.

  • First, of course, is “gross tonnage” – how many people looked or heard about it. We asked the athletes to put a badge on their blogs, so we’re getting some impressions on that. But to be frank, I could care less about the gross tonnage measurements.
  • Second is PR effects. Is this a good story? Did the press find it interesting? CNET Asia has a post titled “How Lenovo Changed our Olympics Experience.” The Burlington, Vermont newspaper, the Burlington Free Press is syndicating the blog posts of hometown favorite, US weightlifter Carissa Gump using Pluck. The Rocky Mountain News writes about it. That’s just the press. The blog pick up has been very gratifying, with some good conversations with bloggers developing both here in China and globally. This also is good positioning for the brand with the issue of free speech and communications hanging over the pre-Game buzz (a non-issue as far as I can see).
  • Engagement and conversations. My line is this: “The Lenovo Voice of the Summer Olympics is not going to be measured by the Web 1.0 metrics of millions and million of impressions but by the Web 2.0 measure of thousands and thousands of conversations between athletes and their fans.” Nuff said.

From a purely selfish point of view, the best part of this project has been meeting the athlete bloggers and seeing how genuinely excited they are to hear those words that thrill any blogger: “I read your blog.” They started off doing this to let their friends and family know what they are up to. Then suddenly, some, like India’s first individual gold medalist, Abhinav Bindra, have a place for an entire nation to offer their congratulations. One second he had 30 comments on a post. An hour after winning gold he had a thousand! My thanks go to them, because this is their project in the end.

Purely selfish photo of your humble narrator with US epee fencer/blogger Capt. (USAF) Seth Kelsey who “gets to travel all over the world and stab people with swords.”

Having a team on the ground to drive the content creation has proven invaluable and I couldn’t have asked for more than Rohit Bhargava and Kaitlyn Wilkins from Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence Project. They have been tirelessly roaming the streets of Beijing, interviewing reporters, snapping photos, tweeting away on Twitter, helping me cover this vast project while I do the thing in the war room. Back home, the team of Esteban Panzeri, Alan White and Tim Supples are keeping the sites live and building the infrastructure, delivering the PCs and cameras … the details and logistics have been staggering. Here in China, Yan An for his diplomacy with the IOC and Sheji Ho for his interactive expertise.

I have no doubt the second half of this program will be just as interesting and surprising as the first. I guess that’s the fun part of all this for an adrenaline fiend like myself – it all changes hour by hour.

Here’s Seth Kelsey on YouTube talking about blogging.

China for the win

You definitely want to be in the grandstand when a Chinese team wins a gold medal. I was surrounded by Chinese in the last grandstand, right on the finish line. Here they are going insane as the women’s quad (four scullers) wins right at the very end.

Ten minutes later, everybody is back on their feet and belting out the Chinese National Anthem. It was cool. The people were proud and they should be, these Olympics defy criticism and the Chinese are excellent hosts.

Persimmons to Empachers

My day (which ends in 27 minutes) started near the Ming Tombs, at 5 am at a very nice house. I didn’t want to wake anybody so I walked the grounds — an old persimmon orchard — and snapped some shots. I ate a persimmon the night before – my friend told me Americans never really get to experience them because they are hard to cultivate and serve. The trees must be grafted onto rootstock to thrive, and then, when the fruit is ripe (it resembles an apple) and the leaves have fallen, the fruit should be ripened in powdered lime (the mineral, not the citrus) or in a warm place for two days. It was served nearly frozen and spooned out of the center. I liked it but wouldn’t go crazy for the next one.

As I walked the path clicking away I could hear the fruit randomly proving Newton’s point with a dull thud – a measure of how quiet it was where the farm was located… the steep hills to the north are where the Great Wall passed, and to the east is the ancestral burial grounds of the Ming dynasty (which was replaced by the Qing Dynasty, the final one before the Nationalists (The “Last Emperor” was a Qing) took power.

More China orchard shots here.

I drove back into the city and met some of the Lenovo Athlete bloggers at a round of Olympic table tennis at Beijing University. I sat next to Seth Kelsey, the American fencer, saw Joshia Ng the Malaysian track cyclist (Keiren) and David Oliver the American track star. There were others, but I was rude, didn’t introduce myself as that would have been rude in the middle of a game and could only stay a half-hour (but saw some ferocious volleys involving a determined Hong Kong player) before I went to the Olympic Green to dodge the SBD’s (“Silent But Deadlies”, what I call the electric vehicles that creep up behind you),  and admire some dedicated national pride at work. I will never contemplate painting my face after seeing this work of art.

Then I checked out of our Showcase on the Green, took off the Lenovo uniform shirt affectionately nicknamed “The Oven Mitt” by those who admire it’s bulletproof, flame retardent qualities, and made my way to Shunyi to watch the rowing. This was the high point of the day. Dave’s very own “Chariots of Fire” moment.  I saw true greatness before my very eyes.

Dinner? An astonishingly awesome Chinese meal of cucumbers and chili, black bean spareribs, roasted eggplant, smoked rice, and beef and peppers and onions, two Tsingtaos, and home with actually enough time to upload 457 photos and write two blog posts. So, half-a-day-off, saw two sports, did a little work, and had a most profound walk amongst the persimmons.

(*Empachers are the yellow boats favored by most Olympians, I own one, and saw a lot of them today.)

USA for the Gold

I can check off the top thing I wanted to accomplish while here in Beijing: I watched the US Women’s 8+ crew win the gold medal at Shunyi, stood with my hand on my heart, and sang the words of the Star Spangled Banner as the red, white and blue went up the flagpole as the sun set to the west.

I can’t offer any intelligent play-by-play. The Americans led from the start and won by a nice margin. I expected them to win. It was an incredible spectacle to witness – from start to finish to medal ceremony to the victory lap before the grandstands. If you ever get the chance to be at an Olympic Games in person and be at an event where your country wins, then count yourself very fortunate, it’s pretty emotional.

I was rooting specifically for one rower, Elle Logan of Boothbay, Maine, who rowed at The Brooks School in North Andover, Mass. (my alma mater) with my daughter. Together they won the second of Elle’s two national high school championships, Elle going on to Stanford. This is, I believe, the third Olympic medal won by a Brooks rower – the others being Gene Clapp in ’72 and Douglas Burden in Barcelona and Atlanta in ’92 and ’96. Congratulations Elle!

The Victory Lap

Inside the last 250 meters in the sprint.

More photos here.