The London Olympic Games are officially finished, and NBC took its share of flak for delaying the broadcasts of the events, as well as complaints for the subpar quality of online streaming and poorly-timed ads. At the same time, more and more people searched for headlines and highlights on mobile devices. So, people have to question, did the delays potentially drive even more traffic than expected to second-screen streams of the events?

Regardless, 2012 saw its first truly digital Olympics and all the digital channels played well in the sandbox – social, mobile and online streaming. As advertisers continue to leverage digital channels for major media events, particularly sports media, what can advertisers learn from the 2012 Olympics?

  1. Target users in relative time, not necessarily real-time, to avoid spoiler alerts.

A huge mistake that NBC made was airing a preview of a gold medal-winner appearing on the “Today Show” the morning before it aired the event in which she won the medal. Real-time advertisements are only as effective as the time zone in which they occur. When airing ads relevant to current events, make sure they’re timed not to spoil events or outcomes for your audience.

  1. Be flexible and fast.

See here how the ability to quickly react to breaking news/events can enhance an ad’s impact. Targeting a user on a hyper-timely topic before competing brands have a chance to reach them is critical. In the above example, consumers were impressed with the commercial’s quick reaction to an event that happened only moments ago. What’s more, the moment when Rebecca Soni won gold in the 200-meter breaststroke is now associated with the Samsung Galaxy. That’s powerful brand association.

  1. Be prepared for traffic spikes to avoid buffering and frustrating consumers.

Engaging with consumers during worldwide media events can have a positive impact on brands. It can also put strains on websites by quickly generating traffic spikes. Brands must have the resources in place to support digital-minded consumers and avoid latency problems and downtime.  Partnering with a third-party vendor can help to offload some of the strain and ensure quality content is delivered and uninterrupted.

  1. Connect with consumers where they are relative to location and device.

Mobile device users accessing Olympic coverage served as a test for marketers to deliver relevant messaging. At a minimum, marketers learned that they needed to serve ads relevant to consumers’ geographies with location-based offers, ensuring Team USA didn’t receive ads intended for Team Great Britain. With the advancements in technology and capabilities, it’s easier to drive more traffic to websites through mobile devices or the desktop. Brands can now more effectively target users and serve up content to any device.

  1. Tell a relevant story, make it real and uplifting.

The Olympics are powerful and inspiring, and often instill a sense of national pride. Spectators are often as passionate about the events as the athletes participating! Sports media offers a unique opportunity for brands to leverage this excitement and connect events to everyday life. Ads resonate well with consumers and inspire them if the themes are similar to the programming that they are watching.

  1. Don’t forget to socialize.

Brands should integrate and publicize their social presence during major media events such as the Olympics in the context of their marketing. Actively responding to visitors that engage with a brand through Facebook or Twitter is equally important. Call it the “socialization of the Olympics,” or the media event du jour. Brands can also leverage traditional advertising to drive users to their mobile apps and social network pages.

The Olympics may be over, but the advertising strategies will continue to serve as a precedent for many digitally integrated events to come, both through mistakes made and tactics that worked. As content is increasingly consumed anytime and anywhere, and as real-time ads become a marketing priority, we will see many traditional brands and newcomers begin to leverage more digital channels through online streaming or mobile device strategies.

What advertising advice would you share with brands looking to attach themselves to major media events?