London 2012: The social media Games

London 2012: The social media Games

With the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony just hours away, sponsors from the financial services world have been bombarding Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with promotional gimmicks in a bid to secure a return on their multi-million dollar investments.

Having paid an estimated $100 million for the privilege of being one of 11 worldwide partners, Visa could be forgiven for wondering if it was money well spent after running into widespread criticism for locking out rivals from the Olympic venues.

The card giant will hope that its reputation is boosted through an association with the Games' biggest star, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who is billed as an "innovation ambassador" and has been appearing on TV screens promoting the company's contactless card and mobile payments technology.

The 100 meter and 200 meter world record holder also retweeted to his 634,000 followers a picture of himself getting a lesson in how to use the mobile payments-enabled handset Visa and fellow sponsor Samsung are handing out to athletes:

Bolt is just one of dozens of Games participants sponsored by Visa, which is using a dedicated Facebook app as well as YouTube and Twitter for a 'Go World' campaign, asking members of the public to 'cheer' athletes, teams and sports by uploading video, audio, picture and text messages of support.

Meanwhile, part State-owned Lloyds Banking Group has paid a mere $63 million to be a London 2012 partner. It has been using Facebook to show off its 'Tourchviewer' camera, following the flame as it has travelled around the country before arriving at the Olympic stadium this evening. Visitors are being invited to ad their photos to a map of the UK for the chance to win tickets to events and YouTube is being used to post video updates of the torch's journey.

It's not just the Games that are being sponsored, individual national teams are also up for grabs, with Team USA snapped up by Citi. The bank's Every Step campaign is based on a $500,000 dollar donation it is asking members of the public to allocate by voting for athletes and sport programmes through a Facebook app, with star performers pitching for a slice with their own YouTube videos and promotion through a dedicated Twitter account.

The Australian team is backed by Commonwealth Bank, which is also plastering its Facebook page with Olympics-related content and deploying a hipster kangaroo to take Instagram photos around London.

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