Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Who’s the Target Audience?

I watched part of the Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi on TV, but fell asleep before it was over. After the long parade of athletes, I couldn’t keep my eyes open for very long. I did see some online video clips of the key pieces that I missed.

Overall, I love the concept of opening ceremonies, but often find them to be pretty boring (Beijing 2008 is the only exception in recent memory). According to an article in Forbes, Opening Ceremony At Sochi A Big Bust On TV, my experience was not unique.

My take: I have no doubt that the Olympic opening ceremonies are grand and very impressive if you’re in attendance, but is that the most important audience? Does it make sense to optimize the experience for the tens of thousands of attendees or for the hundreds of millions of people who will be viewing the event on television and online?

Identifying the target audience is a critical decision for the design of any experience. Many of these events, including Sochi, seem to be optimized for the in-person audience. That’s fine, but only if the planning committee made that decision explicitly.

Good design requires making tough decisions. It’s perfectly okay to prioritize one audience and live with a less than optimal experience for other audiences. I often say that an experience built to satisfy everyone’s needs, satisfy’s no one’s.

If I were part of a country’s Olympic committee, I would prioritize the television and online audience. Who cares if things look spectacular to 50,000 people if they are dull and boring to 250,000,000. If that’s the target audience, then you need to think about things such as:

  • Do you want to prioritize your country men and woman (who might recognize more subtle references) or the rest of the world (who may not know much about our country)?
  • What can you design that would look exciting on a screen?
  • Where do you need to put cameras so that the on-screen experience is compelling (maybe even some behind the scenes cameras to see how things are being done)?
  • What commentary do you need to feed the announcers so that they add to the excitement?
  • What online experience can you blend with the live and recorded video to make the experience more dynamic?

The bottom line: Make sure to be clear about your target audience.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

One thought on “Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Who’s the Target Audience?”

  1. Yes, I agree entirely Bruce!

    And what about the completely missed second screen & social opportunities. Tell me something about the most promising athlete from each country? Who’s got a chance at Gold?

    I switched channels myself.


    Aileen Cahill

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