As the Olympics kicked off last weekend, fans around the world tuned in to watch top athletes perform, but how they’ve tuned and will be tuning this year will be radically different compared to past events. In the four years since Beijing, more than half the world’s population has gotten a smartphone, according to Google, and that trend means big opportunity for brands to engage with global audiences.

Thanks to increased connectivity, fans have more ways than ever to participate in Olympics coverage this summer. NBC, for example is providing live streams of every Olympic event via their digital channels. In addition, fans can opt in to follow their favorite Olympic sports, teams and athletes through a variety of social and mobile applications. NBC is making a bold move by not only providing on-demand coverage, but also tapping into the 2nd-screen trend noting that half of mobile phone owners in the US use their phone to interact with other people while watching TV. NBC’s LiveExtra app is allowing fans to engage with each other during events and download exclusive content on their mobile device.

Mega brands like P&G and Visa are major sponsors of the Olympics, and are doing some pretty amazing things on their digital channels to reach and engage Olympic fans. P&G is promoting their sponsorship with the global “Thank You Mom” (or, “Mum) campaign, which markets original video content across their digital channels. The viewing has been high, as 28 million consumers viewed at least one of the videos – and that was before Friday’s Opening Ceremonies, and the first weekend of the Games.

Likewise, Visa is taking full advantage of its Olympics sponsorship by introducing the Go World promotion. At the core of the campaign, fans have the opportunity to win a trip to future Olympics games. Visa is using its digital channels to not only promote the sweepstakes, but engage fans through a Facebook app in which they can add a cheer for their favorite athletes. Even if they don’t win, fans have the experience of sharing their Olympic experience with a global audience, thanks to Visa. It’s that kind of innovative thinking about cross-digital platforms that will build brand affinity that lasts long after the flame goes out in London.

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