Pulled these out of a storage box, long after I thought I’d photographed and recycled all my old Yahoo t-shirts. The Brand team were never consulted about the design of the Yahoo! Reportisa tee by the Yahoo! Australia and NZ Production team.
We made them to celebrate our unauthorised attempt to cover the Sydney 2000 Olympics without accredited media access to event venues or result data.
You see, before Yahoo! was a lame and limping relic of a bygone age, and before Yahoo! was a globe-spanning tech giant, Yahoo! was a number of small crews of overworked, under-resourced crazy-people with about half the time and half the experience they needed to pull off the things we attempted.
In the year preceding the games, we volunteered our advice to the Sydney Olympic Organising Committee, to help it get its internet shit together. We wanted to help the Sydney Olympic Games be the best ever, but we also hoped that we might be able to get some brand, content, advertising or other benefit from being associated with the event.
Yahoo! was a global marketing partner that year but that meant nothing when it came to getting rights to news, images and results data which was jealously guarded by IBM which wouldn’t give us access (even though I don’t think they really knew why, it was just a corporate culture of reflexive hoarding).
It was happening on our front door (the marathon events literally went past only fifty metres from our building’s main entrance) so we had to try something.
We had a history of bending rules (as most of Yahoo!’s production teams did) and usually asked for forgiveness, not approval. So we got started.
We figured we could probably copy and paste a lot of table data from IBM’s own results website but in the end, we also had to take a lot off TV, radio and even newspapers, because IBM’s infrastructure was so crap it was often the last news source to be updated.
Many of us had tickets to events (or knew colleagues, friends and family with tickets to events) so sometimes we could actually have one of our unauthorised reporters at an event. Results were filed by SMS, over a phone call, or FTP. When we couldn’t be there, we did our best to make it seem like we were there.
We were desperately understaffed. Our company didn’t have any actual news reporters back then, though some of us (me included) had come from a media background. We did it in addition to our day jobs and we did it for no recompense other than the occasional pizza.
We practiced triage – figuring our audience was mostly Aussies and New Zealanders, we tried our best to cover events in which the locals had a chance of winning a place.
Our other priority was the big showcase events, such as the sprints, relays, marathons and Australia’s traditional strengths – the swimming, tennis, basketball, field hockey, netball… it was a problem that Australia was too good at too many sports!
We were never going to win any journalism awards, but advertisers were falling over each other to buy any Sydney Olympics-related online advertising space, and we gave them as much as we could create, with the small amount of people and time we had.
While we were busy running our pirate news coverage, Yahoo!’s marketing and PR team were cobbling something together too. Their brief: how to involve Yahoo!’s nascent mobile internet technologies with activity at the Sydney Olympics?
This news report from US prime time news features a little grab of a much younger me and a stunt Yahoo!’s PR and marketing team concocted…
We did it the way we did most everything at Yahoo! in those days – with an adrenalin rush of fear and optimism at the start, followed by a caffeine-and-camaraderie-fuelled grind, until we’d either failed or succeeded.
When opportunity knocks hard, you’ve got to ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen if you get it wrong, and just give it a try.