Response Post: The Branding of the Olympics

Branding. Branding  always seems to sell a brand, or sink it. Companies with good branding are recognizable, trusted and consistent. A company’s brand is what consumers expect of the products. That is the interesting aspect about the Olympics. The Olympics are a global entity that can be rebranded every four years without repercussions.

Each city does its own rendition of the Olympics. The host country is given the opportunity to put their culture on display. Everyone goes into the Olympics with a fresh mind, with a general idea of what to expect. It is a clean slate every time. When a company rebrands, it is usually because their previous brand image was becoming worse. Rebranding is typically not seen as a good thing. That is where the Olympics have lucked out. Since it is a global competition, a new country hosts the Olympics each time. Thus, a new brand can be created every four years.

I am not saying that the Olympics do not have expectations. If there is one thing that has been consistent about the “Olympics brand” is that the hosting country seems always seems to want to have the best Olympics. I think that there is nothing wrong with that. For a competition hosting athletes and spectators from all over the globe, the event should be of world-class quality. That is one consistent aspect about the Olympics, each hosting city wants to be the best. The Olympics have created a healthy competition, not just between the athletes, but between the hosting cities. For an event that has 4+ years of notice, the event should be world-class. Each city is picked by the Olympic committee for a reason, so if they can’t deliver a world-class Olympics, then they have failed.

If there were brand slogans for the Olympics, they would probably sound something like this:
– World class competition: athletes and cities.

– Global athletics, global culture.

– The Olympics: Where the competition extends beyond the athletes.

The Olympic “brand” in my mind is that hosting cities simply want to out-do each other. There is cultural acceptance, great athletics, and opening/closing ceremonies that are arguably the most elaborate live performances you will see. The opening ceremony for the 2008 summer olympics in Beijing had the best choreographed performances I’ve seen in my entire life. Have other cities been able to replicated that choreography? No. But have other cities attempted to display their culture in the most elaborate way possible? Of course. And that is the Olympic brand. To showcase culture and cater a world class event, to a global audience.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Since the Olympics are every four years, each city can do the event in their fashion. The possibilities are almost endless. As long all Olympics take place, there is no violence, and the opening/closing ceremonies are not a production failure, then the Olympics are viewed as a success.

What other company/brand has the option to rebrand with such ease? I cannot think of one. Rebranding occurs when the current brand is not seen in a positive light by the public. However, there is one brand that can get away with continuously rebranding themselves (to an extent). Those brands are music brands. Bands and musicians are essentially rebranding themselves with every album release. Every album you listen to has a certain theme, sound, concept, etc. Music artists are either remembered by their most popular album, or their most recent album. If they are remembered by their most popular album, then the most recent album has reshaped their brand. TV shows can’t rebrand because they need viewers. If a show is consistently changing its material, they’ll lose viewers because they are not sticking with what viewers are expecting of the show. Movie directors brand themselves with the material they deliver. It would take multiple movies for a movie director to rebrand him/herself.

Rebranding is a dangerous tactic, but some brands, like the Olympics and musicians are able to rebrand themselves consistently because their audience is open minded to certain levels of change.

Grantland: The Branding of the Olympics

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