At what has been dubbed “The Social Media Games,” Lauren Pasquale is one busy woman. As digital media director of the US Olympic Committee, she manages the organization’s digital platforms including TeamUSA.org, social media, mobile/tablet applications and TeamUSA’s new, dedicated YouTube channel. Justin W. Sanders caught up with Pasquale between her numerous flights to find out what goes into filtering many decades of epic global athletic spectacle through the tricky prism of YouTube.
When and how did TeamUSA decide to create a dedicated YouTube channel?
We launched the channel around 100 days out from the games on April 18 and we launched it in partnership with YouTube. The genesis of the idea has been around for quite some time. We have the rights to use archived footage in the United States and there are so many great moments from the Games – we’ve been trying to figure out what is the best medium for fans to access this content in a way that they can choose what interests them. The platform for YouTube is so enormous and the reach is so vast across the country that it seemed like the perfect way to release all this content.
What challenges did you face in setting the channel up?
One of the biggest concerns we had was with the way we used the footage. We wanted to make sure we presented it in a way that really respected the value of the footage and the rights that we have domestically, but made the greatest moments available for fans. You can’t really go on and watch every single game of the 1996 women’s gold medal, so how should we package the content? How should we present it?
Once we got through the footage question, then the question was really about production and what we decided to do was present four series of original programming that you can only get on the TeamUSA YouTube channel.
Can you tell us a little more about those four original series?
The first one is called Qualified and we follow 17 different athletes from the training and the trials and the qualification process all the way to London, and then for a month or so after. We do nutrition regimens, we talk to their coaches [and] their families. In some of the videos you see the send-offs, the little parties their families throw before they go catch their flight. Qualified is really about, “what is it like, the journey to London, to making the team?”
The next series is called Returning Veterans: London Bound and we follow five veterans of the military who are suffering from different injuries, whether it’s paralysis or amputation, and now, as paralympians, are training to try and serve their country once again.
The other two series are timeless – one of them is called Olympic Coaching Tips and in that series we have 15 different Olympic coaches from various sports teaching the fundamentals of their sport using graphics and imagery from the games.
The final one is totally my favorite – it’s called Gold Medal Moments and we chronicle 52 gold medal moments in Olympic history. Everything from Mary Lou Retton’s gold medal winning performance to Jesse Owens in the 1936 games and how culturally significant that was, to the black power salute of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. It really runs the gamut of historic to more recent moments. I love that series.
Does all the TeamUSA channel content fit under one of those four categories?
No that’s just the original programming and that’ll make up maybe about 300 videos in 2012. Then we have about another 200-300 more videos that we just call archived or curated content, and that includes the video series we create for TeamUSA.org. Some examples are a daily news report called Road to London presented by Hilton HHonors, a [nutritional] video series called Great Starts presented by Kellogg’s, [and a] series called Team USA Britain Bound presented by Samsung, which is 20 different videos of a small group of athletes we took over to London last fall, who just sort of play and have fun and enjoy the culture.
[There are] probably about 500 videos that will end up taken from teamusa.org and added to the YouTube channel. And of course everything that we shoot in London will go up on the channel and that will include behind-the-scenes interviews with athletes after they win medals.
Does this channel work to bring more sponsorship interest to TeamUSA or is it geared more to increase awareness among viewers?
I would say both. We want to increase the digital platforms on which consumers can get TeamUSA content; by doing that we’ve opened up another avenue for sponsorship.
At the time of this interview, the channel has more than a million views and more than 8000 subscribers (that figure has since changed to more than 18,000 subscribers and more than 2 million views - Ed.) Are these figures meeting your expectations so far?
You know, we’re brand new to this so we really didn’t set any parameters around number of subscribers or page views. But we want that number to go as high as it possibly can and we really want fans to create a community here, so the sky’s the limit.
NBC is the major broadcaster of the Olympics. What is your relationship with them?
They’re one of our most important partners and they do such a great job with [the broadcast] that it can only help the Olympic movement to have NBC as our broadcaster. We definitely had conversations with them. It’s important to make sure that all the content across all platforms is being presented in the right way and [the TeamUSA YouTube channel] is just another way for fans to broaden their viewing experience.
To follow up with the Olympians and see all the great original programming and archived footage mentioned above, visit the TeamUSA channel.