U.S. Olympics governing bodies taking advantage of social media

Sep 16 2009 - 10:28pm

Most 66-year-olds use a phone book more than Facebook. They think Tweeting is a sound birds make. They spend afternoons golfing or napping, not blogging.

Doug Logan isn't your typical senior citizen. He runs one of the most influential Olympic national governing bodies, and he rarely holds back in sharing his opinions through social media Web sites and a controversial blog.

"You've got to be part of where the culture is going, where society is going," said Logan, chief executive officer of USA Track & Field.

In the Olympic world, Facebook and Twitter have become as common as marketing plans and conditioning programs, a way for NGBs to forge an identity, athletes to express their feelings and the U.S. Olympic Committee to stay relevant.

All but one of 45 NGBs maintain a Facebook page or utilize the Internet's most visited social networking site to promote their events, and 36 NGBs have accounts with Twitter, a micro-blogging service in which users dispatch messages no longer than 140 characters.

Countless Olympic athletes, including Colorado Springs residents Henry Cejudo, Rachael Flatt and Hunter Kemper, post their thoughts on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Flatt is the most popular of the trio on Twitter, with 1,037 people following the figure skater, and Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist wrestler, has 2,483 Facebook fans.

On Twitter, the USOC heavily advertised a fundraising campaign that netted $4.4 million over the summer. Its Paralympic division has a stronger following on Facebook, routinely filling the page with news and results from 24 sports.

Logan has updated his "Shin Splints" blog 27 times since he replaced Craig Masback last year. He's critical of U.S. athletes, writing they "managed to muck up several key events" at the 2008 Olympics. And he blogs about a variety of topics: "Coach Pat Summitt could get me to run wind sprints. Queen Latifah could get me to take a yoga class."

"Some people are offended," Logan said, noting the growing number of online comments from readers. "I've been called a punk. I've been called a communist. I've been called all sorts of names. That's good. I'm a great believer in the marketplace of ideas."

USA Taekwondo CEO David Askinas said he doesn't tweet because, "I don't care when someone has gone to the bathroom or had a corn dog for lunch. It's more interesting what athletes are doing."

"I'm not interested in anybody knowing what I'm doing," added USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean. "It's like, who cares? ... If there are people that are really anxious to know that, they should get a life."

U.S. Figure Skating executive director David Raith sees value in Facebook and Twitter.

"It allows us to get our messages out," he said. "There is an evolution going on, and this is part of that. ... It's getting your brand out there and making people aware of it."


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