From May 13 20, 2000, the Sydney International Aquatic Centre played host to the Telstra Selection Trials for the Australian Olympic Swimming Team. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The Telstra 2000 Selection Trials was a swimming event sponsored by Telstra as part of its commitment to Australian swimming and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. It provided the company with an excellent vehicle for promoting its technological leadership to a world audience as well as cementing its position as a major sponsor of the upcoming Olympic Games.
To reinforce these key messages, a strategic decision was made to establish an event web site that would provide real time results, competitor information and pertinent media material. Through an integrated marketing campaign to publicise the site URL, and support from media and event organisers, the web site proved to be one of the most popular sites within <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia. Some of the highlights included:
- 15 million hits during the eight days of the event, (a total of 18 million hits)
- 809,200 individual page views.
- 35% of visitors from the USA, and 35% from Australia.
- The successful trial of new technologies such as pool cam.
- Achieved higher than average click through rates on advertising banners.
- Became the fourth most popular sporting web site in Australia
Since 1994, Telstra has been the principal sponsor of Australian Swimming, both at a national and grass roots level.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Telstra continually seeks ways to reinforce its involvement and long-term commitment to this sport. As swimming is considered one of the most high profile Olympic sports in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Telstra has used this opportunity to promote its Olympic sponsorship messages.
The Telstra Australian Open Swimming Championships held from 13-20 May this year represented an ideal vehicle for Telstra to promote its involvement. The championships were the selection trials for the Australian Olympic Swimming Team and an official SOCOG test event held at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre at Homebush with a spectator capacity of around 17,500. As naming rights sponsor, Telstra was able to conduct activities around the event.
As part of the events marketing program, Telstra decided to build the official championship web site linked from both the Telstra Home Page and the Australian Swimming site.
Based on its previous experiences with sponsoring other Australian Swimming events, Telstra was confident that the Telstra 2000 Selection Trials would prove popular with national and international fans. Previous research at these events revealed that swimming fans were interested in up to the minute results and background event information that could be easily accessed through the Internet. An audit of media requirements also highlighted the need for such an information source.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Based on this feedback, a web site best practices international search was conducted to determine the features and functionality that were to be incorporated into the Telstra site.
Messages and supporting graphics were developed from qualitative research with the target audience. Research revealed that the audience was supportive of communication messages that reinforced Telstras position as a customer focussed telecommunications leader.
As swimming in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia is considered a general lifestyle activity that transcends all age groups, the target audience was defined as the mass Australian market.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Particular emphasis was placed on reaching young families in the 24 35 year age group (home establishers), as this demographic group represents the majority of Australian households.
The other important audience was overseas swimming fans and participants who could be introduced to Telstra and its role in the Olympics.
International best practice research had revealed that simply building a web site would not guarantee high site visitation. Rather, a substantive amount of resources had to be directed towards communications activities that would promote the existence of the site.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> An integrated communications approach was therefore undertaken that incorporated above the line (eg: advertising) and under the line promotional activities (eg: PR) in both the online and offline environments.
Central to the communication campaign was the promotion of key messages about the site that would prove of interest to the target audience. As such, pre-event promotion about the availability of athlete profiles, up to date event results, and new technological applications were presented at every opportunity.
Additionally, the availability of media material and supporting graphics was highlighted to members of the media who had already signified their interest in the Trials with event organisers.
The specific elements of the campaign involved:
- a major consumer competition
a banner advertising campaign on popular international portals
links to the site from Telstra.com and other affiliated sites
media releases to sports and technology journalists in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia and overseas
written information to Trial participants and international delegates
traditional advertising on Channel 9 and Foxtel
promotion of the URL on all event collateral
A further element of the communication campaign was to involve event organisers during the construction of the site. This activity ensured involvement and general support of the site which was crucial for building exposure through word-of-mouth activities.
A final consideration was incorporating traditional, highly popular services such as HeroFax and HeroNet, into the web site offering. This ensured that fans had an additional, pressing reason to visit the site.
The majority of the communications strategy was undertaken in the weeks immediately prior, and during, the Trials as it was generally accepted that interest in the site would immediately decline following the event. Subsequent site statistics vindicated this assumption.
The site was rolled out in a three-phase strategy. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
General event information was made available and posted on the web site when Olympic tickets went on sale a couple of months prior to the Australian Swimming Trials.
Information was updated and added regarding the athletes and various lead up activities, such as the Dream Team activity. The final user experience was the chat session with the newly selected team on the final night.
Features implemented for the site included:
- The Program where to purchase tickets, ticket prices, directions on getting to the event, a schedule of the event, and television broadcast schedule.
- Latest Results real time results fed real-time via a network from the Swiss Timing scoring system.
- Press Centre press releases provided by media officers.Profile Search search functionality to find any of over 700 swimmers competing in the event.
- Photo Gallery digital photos provided by the Sport Library on site, within minutes of shooting.
- Pool <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Cam sitting on the 7 metre diving board, visitors could control this 24 hour camera and look around the Aquatic Centre.Virtual Tour using IPIX technology, an interactive, spherical image enabled visitors to have a 360 degree view, from earth to sky, floor to ceiling and horizon to horizon.
- Chat chat room for swimming enthusiasts to share information, including a moderated chat on Saturday evening with four Australian Team members.
- Dream Team Competition competition asking for visitors to place their vote on Australias all time greatest swimmers.
- Track Pack facility for users to customise information received eg selection of individual events and the ability to receive results and press releases via email.
- Hero Services Heronet service (email) to send messages to the swimmers was available as well as Herofax. Fax streaming technology was used.
- Dynamic Front Page highlighting points tally for states and clubs, the latest press release and photos from the gallery.
The site had an impressive 15 million hits over the course of the eight-day event, and over 18 million hits in total. The 1999 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships web site only received 6.8 million hits over a similar period.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> The site also attracted a huge number of international (65%) and national (35%) visitors.
The Telstra 2000 Selection Trials web site was the 4th most popular sports site in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia for the week ending 20 May. It was the number 1 Water sports site in Australia for the week ending 20 May and number 2 for 27 May. (Information from Hit Wise Australia a Sinewave rating service)
Results for specific features of the site were:
Pool Cam: 28,086 page views
Hero Nets: over 10,000 emails received
Track Pack: 1,575 users registered to receive personalised information
Dream Team competition: 582 entries and extensive coverage in newspapers, radio and television
Moderated Chat: over 800 people visited the chat room with around 100 concurrent visitors at any given time
Much of the success of the site was due to the extensive promotion of the URL on television, radio and across a number of national and international web sites. It proved the importance of marrying the URL with advertising and other promotions in the lead up to such events. Higher than average click through rates were achieved on advertising banners that linked directly to the site.
Television coverage publicised the site. This included FOXTEL and Channel 9 each night, with sports highlights on each of the news stations that also mentioned the site URL. Channel 9 coverage of the event topped the ratings on the first Saturday night of the Trials, and continued its top position for the next seven nights. Media coverage in metropolitan and international press centred predominantly on the event but also referred to the URL in the final paragraph. Again contributing to the promotion of the site.
Site traffic was measured through an online reporting mechanism that recorded information about the number of visitors, the duration of their visit, the areas most visited etc. This information was provided in a report format on a daily basis.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Verifying these results was an Internet rating organisation Sinewave that publishes
Independent reports on online activity as recorded on Internet proxy servers.
Post site evaluation was also undertaken through qualitative research with site visitors, Swimming Australia and event organisers.
While brand metric research about Telstras brand for June is not yet available, results for late May 2000 show an increase in consumer favourability towards Telstras brand metrics (Woolcott Research). This timing is in line with the sites development.