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A new age of connecting to fans

May 1, 2013
Missy Franklin

Missy Franklin

Anyone who says, “The Olympics are only two weeks every four years,” is mistaken. The Olympics are like the gift that keeps on giving. Sure, competition only lasts a brief, fleeting few weeks. But the ramifications and coverage from the Olympics lasts long into the following days, weeks, months, and even years.

Take, for example, Missy Franklin. The superstar teenage swimmer won hearts last summer, became a household name, and will be profiled throughout the “between years” from London to Rio. She will be featured in two upcoming documentaries, both of which center around last summer’s triumphs.

The first documentary is appropriately called, “FIRST.” It’s the official documentary sponsored by the International Olympic Committee, which features a number of athletes in their build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games, including Franklin. The documentary will be shown – inexplicably – only one day on May 30th in the United States. Mark your calendars and find a participating theater.

The second documentary that features Missy Franklin has been closely followed by swim fans. It’s called “Touch the Wall,” and the filmmakers took a unique and innovative fundraising approach. In exchange for special perks, like a signed cap or swim lesson with Kara Lynn Joyce, fans were encouraged to donate money through a crowd funding website called Kickstarter. The filmmakers were asking for $110,000 to complete the editing on the film, and they raised $119,000.

That’s some serious money.

Not only is that amount ranking in the Top 25 of all Kickstarter projects, according to “Touch the Wall’s” website, but it should be enough money to completely edit the documentary. The filmmakers claim to need all sorts of other funding, both for Olympic footage and music rights, but should no more money trickle in, at least swim fans should be able to see an edited version of this film in some capacity.

What else does this successful crowd funding project mean?

It means we’re going to see more crowd funding projects between now and Rio. Anthony Ervin partially funded his FINA World Cup Tour using a crowd funding website and raised over $11,000. Missy Franklin’s filmmakers raised ten times that. You have to wonder what would happen with some other ideas, like:

What if Michael Phelps agreed to make a one weekend Grand Prix comeback as long as funds were raised to build a pool in a community that needs it?
Or if Spitz and Phelps agreed to race as long as a project raised $500,000 for swim lessons for at-risk youth?
Or if the entire 2012 US Olympic roster coached a swim team for one week?

The Olympics are only once-every-four-years, but the Olympics’ impact lasts much longer. One of the top Kickstarter projects ever was funded simply because fans crave more of two of their Olympic heroes, Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce. But that’s also the case across the board. Swim fans want Grand Prixs on network TV. They want live broadcasts of National Championships. They want to see these legends whom we got to know last summer in action this summer, and next summer, and the summer after that.

At last, it appears there’s a way fans can directly connect to their heroes, and many elite swimmers are embracing it. We live in a world where reruns of the Kardashians will get higher ratings than many swim meets, but that doesn’t mean our swim base is passive. They are rabid for content. This latest success with the “Touch the Wall” documentary proves that fans won’t pinch pennies to have access to more swimming content.

Mark your calendars for May 30, find a theater, and go watch “FIRST.” Then get ready for “Touch The Wall.” Then be on the lookout for more Kickstarters and an abundance of other crowd-funded projects.

The Olympics are two weeks long.

But fans want to relive those two weeks for years to come.

by Mike Gustafson // USA Swimming


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