A Fast Runner + A Smart Marketing Shop = Social Media Gold

Interested in the concept of leveraging social media?

Photo courtesy of Hanson Dodge. Shot by Donald Gruener.

Take a note from Olympic U.S. middle distance runner, Nick Symmonds. Earlier this year on eBay, he auctioned off ad space on his left shoulder.

The highest bidder’s Twitter handle would be placed, by temporary tattoo, on Symmonds’ shoulder throughout his 2012 track and field season, including the summer Olympics in London.   

A marketing firm with muscle

Hanson Dodge, an athletic-lifestyle marketing firm in Wisconsin, eventually won the auction for $11,100, but some of the first bidders on eBay were friends and fans competing for the chance to be featured.

Symmonds’ originally toyed with the concept of auctioning off space for a website or logo, but, as he told the media, that would have been, “too corporate, too much about dollars; by making it a Twitter handle, I invited everyone in the game.”

What to expect during prime time

Due to strict branding guidelines, Symmonds’ temporary tattoo will be covered with a piece of athletic tape during the televised races, confirms his arm sponsor with this Tweet: 

Despite the restrictions, Symmonds’ partnership with Hanson Dodge already has created a great deal of buzz in traditional and social media.

Read this AdWeek recap from July 10, describing how Symmonds is building his own brand as an athlete/entertainer and how Olympians often struggle to fund their rigorous training.

About the unique partnership

"As America's leading active lifestyle agency we work with clients who specialize in sports, fitness, and the outdoor industry, and Nick, a professional runner and Olympian, is fitting extension of that work,” wrote Joe Ciccarelli with Hanson Dodge.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better partnership – it has been an absolute success on many levels,” added Ciccarelli. “As we work to help Nick tell his story, champion athletes' rights, and grow his brand, we are in turn growing Hanson Dodge Creative’s brand in the active lifestyle space."

Check out this Los Angeles Times piece from July 30 on why some Olympians, like Symmonds, are tweeting: #WeDemandChange2012."

Hanson Dodge also helps Symmonds’ website, infographics and his online video series like this one below.

Connecting with his fans

Symmonds is becoming known for his social media savvy, having raised his fan base to almost 21,000 Twitter followers. Twitter and Facebook are his main channels of interacting with his fans, and he understands the importance of this relationship. He stated that postings create “a mosaic” of who he is as a professional athlete, and this can positively or negatively affect everything from sponsorships, to the success of his career. 

The 28-year-old’s interactive approach includes hosting Tweeting contests, inviting fans to post their predictions for his times in open racing events. The winner guessing the closest time takes home an autographed Nike T-shirt.

Symmonds’ innovative and personal approach has gained him much notoriety and helped him not only connect with his fans, but build his business brand far beyond London.

Clearly, Symmonds understands that in addition to being a world-class runner, he’s also an entertainer, public figure and brand advocate. Maybe Symmonds will start his own social media shop like funnyman and actor Ashton Kutcher.

Are you interacting with and following your favorite Olympic athletes through social media? What ways would you like to connect?

Share your comments on our Facebook page.