By Natasha Baker

TORONTO (Reuters) - Athletes captured the spotlight at the 2012 Summer Games but a social marketing web app helped companies score gold with consumers during what has been dubbed as the first social media Olympics.

Wildfire, the social media management web software recently bought by Google and used by 16,000 companies worldwide, enabled firms to create Olympics promotions and campaigns on social platforms and track fan growth and engagement.

Some of the official sponsors of the Games, which included Proctor and Gamble, Coca Cola and Visa, saw their fanbases grow by millions of followers, and a doubling of their engagement levels throughout the games, according to Wildfire data analyst James Lancaster.

"Olympics on social media had a huge role for brands. Not only were fanbases growing by huge amounts but fans were really interacting with brand pages," he said.

The company tracked a Facebook metric known as "people talking about this," which is a combination of the number of posts made to a brand page's wall, in addition to likes, shares and comments.

"That's really important for brands because it really brings brand awareness when you have people who are liking, and commenting and sharing a posting because you'll see it in your newsfeed and it sort of takes off virally," Lancaster explained.

For Proctor and Gamble, this score grew by 216 percent, for Coca Cola by 126 percent and for Visa by 67 percent.

"P&G was an example of a sponsor who did this very well," said Lancaster.

The company's campaign featured a series of videos showing athletes talking about their mothers, which were widely shared across social networks.

"In the media and in terms of virality, this was one of the biggest campaigns that any of the brands ran during the games. It really resonated," said Emily Pereira, director of communications for Wildfire, which is based in Redwood City, California.

Lancaster attributed social media success among the official sponsors to two things: the ability to leverage Olympics branding in their content and implementing social media best practices, such as engaging fans through polls, questions and photo-sharing.

Whether it was for a multinational clothing brand or an outdoor gear shop, linking the product to the Games and the city that played host was key to consumer engagement.

According to Pereira, thousands of companies ran Olympics-themed promotions such as contests, sweepstakes and polls using Wildfire on social platforms. Some firms also embedded live feeds and videos of events in London.

"If there was any obvious way of tying the Olympics or London to what they were selling they definitely took advantage of that opportunity," she said.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and M.D. Golan)