by Gavin O’Malley
As part of its broader social-marketing push around the Summer Olympic Games in London, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched its official Olympic badge and check-in locations on Foursquare.
“We wanted to do something fun,” said Alex Huot, head of social media for the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC is encouraging people to get active by checking into sports venues around the world on the location-based social network, including past, current and future Olympic stadiums and training centers.
When users check-in to at least two affiliated venues and follow the IOC on Foursquare, they unlock the official “Get Fit for Olympic Day” badge, and will be directed to enter a contest to win a trip to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The Foursquare integration comes just weeks after the IOC launched the Olympic Athletes’ Hub, a social media platform that aggregates Facebook and Twitter updates of Olympians.
And the IOC is hardly the only source of Olympics coverage. All told, the BBC is expected to eclipse NBC’s digital Olympics coverage in America by streaming more than 2,500 hours of content via 24 channels. Key to the BBC’s digital coverage is a new browser-based online video player that offers pause and rewind options and clickable alerts that take users to other streaming events when key moments are happening elsewhere.
Luckily for Foursquare, the spread of smartphones in the last year has led to a jump in the number of Americans using real-time, location-based data on their handsets.
Indeed, a recent study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that almost three-quarters (74%) of smartphone owners used their devices to get directions and other location-related information as of February — up from 55% last May.
That increase coincided with a rise in smartphone ownership to 46% this year, from 35% in 2011. That means that the overall proportion of U.S. adults who get location-based information has almost doubled over that time period– to 41% in February 2012 from 23% last May.
The Pew report also found that smartphone users are more likely to turn to geo-social services like Foursquare to check into certain places and share their location with friends. Some 18% did do so as of February — up from 12% in 2011, equating to 10% of all U.S. adults.
For all its popularity, however, Foursquare is still looking for a viable business model. To that end, the service is reportedly getting into the coupon business and plans to let merchants buy special placement for promotions of personalized local offers via a redesigned version of its app.
According to unconfirmed reports, Foursquare users will soon be able to see the specials, although they’ll need to “check in” to specific venues to redeem them. It also recently announced that it would charge $10 to businesses for instant verification of their accounts.
The IOC’s official Foursquare page features historical facts about the Olympics, along with information about Olympic stadiums and facilities.