Tokyo 2020 Closing Ceremony

The Strangest Games on record? Or a sign of what’s to come?

Elite sport demands superlatives. Whether it be The Fastest, The Furthest, The Longest, The Highest; its very purpose is to find a place in the extremities of human history. Finishing just a few weeks ago, Tokyo 2020 already has a place as the strangest Olympic Games so far. 

A festival of sport, within a state of emergency, a celebration of human athletic achievement; with no one there to watch. Wherever you look at this year’s games there are high and lows, yet ultimately the Olympics retained their unique glow. 

Despite the absence of fans, the stories that were told during the Games were as powerful as ever. Fans identified this, and turned to social media in an unprecedented fashion to experience the Games and to know the athletes in an authentic manner. TikTok showed how a condom was used to fix gold medallist Jessica Fox’s canoe, bronze medallist Jagger Eaton celebrated his medal on Instagram live and nearly every social media platform was full of athletes testing the stability of the cardboard bed frames. 

Whilst athletes were amongst those who utilised social media effectively during the games, we at Fifty Digital have been delighted to work with a number of clients to bring fans closer to the action than ever before. From always on and reactive updates to paid campaigns, establishing a client’s Olympic look and feel and delivering campaign creative – the absence of fans has driven our team to bring followers around the world to the Games.  

Ensuring that there was a comprehensive social media strategy was crucial for sports making their debut. We loved creating a new look and feel for the International Surfing Association. Our challenge was to showcase the sport’s heritage, whilst also highlighting it as new, cool and cutting edge! During the Games, the ISA channels and Olympic Surfing athletes gained over 3.5 million new followers, with ISA engagements and impressions rising by 660% and 561% respectively.  

Whilst Basketball has been an integral part of the Games since 1936, its younger, smaller cousin 3v3 basketball was making its debut. In our work with FIBA we were tasked with creating a sense of relatability between the two variations whilst also capturing their unique spirit. We created hero, hub and hygiene graphics bringing in elements of Japanese flair and focussing on the medal winners. A few of our content pieces also found their way to the official NBA account (with over 60 million followers on Instagram) which showed we hit the mark and basketball was blossoming at the Games. 

Two of our other clients, Volleyball World and World Athletics, are more established in the Olympic calendar. For Volleyball World we focused on creating dynamic, fun and dramatic head-to-head graphics, illustrating the hotly anticipated match-ups between different players and nations in an eye-catching fashion. Seeing plenty of success on the courts and across social, Volleyball World achieved the most engagements per post across all governing bodies on Twitter. 

Meanwhile for World Athletics, we took a different approach. As the Games’ largest and most iconic sport, we created a series of graphics that heroised key athletes in a stand out style, whilst each uniquely celebrating the athlete’s nationality, capitalising on the inevitable national pride that’s evident during the Games. We also undertook a branding project, researching and identifying ways we could differentiate Tokyo 2020 from other World Athletics events, and looking at ways that we could celebrate the Games in an impactful way on social media. That’s not to say we didn’t have a bit of fun too; tapping into meme culture was key for engaging fans from afar, with ideas such as ‘Sifan’s day off’ proving one of the best performing posts of the Games. 

In many ways the events of the last 18 months have made social media more powerful than ever before, and athletes, governing bodies and social platforms are acclimatising by the day. Whilst the world tentatively begins to look to the future the insight, opportunity and value offered by a comprehensive event based, social strategy is here to stay. 

If you think your organisation could benefit from a no obligation conversation about your social strategy please email