Branding the Olympics is never an easy task, and it is much more than just creating a logo. It is about understanding the psyche of the host city, the zeitgeist of the nation and people hosting the world. It is also about understanding what a modern and global phenomenon the Olympics has become and ensuring in a 24/7 web connected world the Olympic city ‘brand’ is well managed from start to finish.
Having been an official provider for the London2012 Olympics as part of McCann Worldgroup, FutureBrand is well placed to have an opinion on what were the TOP 10 elements of success for the London Games.
As London now hands over the responsibility to Rio 2016, reviews of The Games and of London as the host city have been overwhelmingly positive. Whether seen live, on television, on screen or in print – The Games generated a wave of positive connections across cultures, languages and audiences and it is in no doubt placed London for 17 days at the center of the media spotlight. So, what were the TOP 10 elements of the 2012 Games branding which worked so well?
In reverse order,
10. Mascots matter. Wenlock and Mandeville. Named after the origins of the modern Olympics and Paralympics and co-created by children and cartoon design professionals, simply changed the conversation and got noticed for simply NOT being a British Lion, Bulldog or Pigeon (the typical ‘local’ animal based concept) which so often fails to convey what the Games are about rather than just the location or city where it is being hosted. The two ‘twins’ together are neither seen as disfigured nor disadvantaged as they sport the Olympic rings as jewelry, engage in active poses of sport and most importantly ‘unify’ the spirit of both Olympic and Paralympic sports. They may have taken some time to get used to and indeed, be considered ‘cuddly’, but judging by the sales of the all-gold Wenlock, pins and badges – they were eventually welcomed as part of the Games. The clever use of Wenlock statues placed across London as Art installations and decorated with location or inspired artwork also created a treasure-hunt approach for tourists and children alike. The cartoons of The Games featuring the mascots encourage children to take up sport, and most importantly convey with subtlety the importance of understanding the values of Olympics and Paralympics. If there is any doubt about this, check out the moment when Usain Bolt and Wenlock celebrated together after Bolt won the Men’s 200m Gold
NOTE FOR RIO – Make sure your mascots are more than just cuddly toys for merchandise and help to tell a story, particularly for younger audiences; make them dynamic and integral to every sport and occasion.
9. One Look and Feel. Building on the above theme of ‘unity’ – by creating the first fully integrated ‘look and feel’ for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games (done by FutureBrand, by the way!) – a sense of continuity and connection was created which clearly establishes the two Games as being of the same origin and purpose. The ‘look’ of The Games was based on a bright colour palette which would enable London to look modern and contemporary whilst not taking away from the city’s unique traditional and contemporary architecture. The bright magenta, purple and aqua/orange/gold colours accompanied by the ‘inspirational burst’ with London 2012 in type at the centre created some amazing and iconic backdrops for the athletics and sports drama to unfold. Purple, the colour of the medal ribbons and the platforms for medal ceremonies and rituals amplified victory as only a regal colour could. Given that no country has purple in its flag – at once it is both a colour of honour and respect without pandering to the usual red, white or blue. The ‘stand out’ factor on screens around the world also helped to bring the dynamic of the games to life.
NOTE FOR RIO – already the Olympic and Paralympic logos for Rio2016 follow the London 2012 example, and have a great touch of ‘brazilian’ flair for design. One tip, however – don’t just rely on Green and Yellow to remind the world where The Games are being held.
8. The Sound of the Games. A stroke of genius in London 2012 was the decision to use music more effectively as part of the Olympic experience. From the soundtrack by Underworld at the Opening Ceremonies (did anyone see the stewards multiple dance routines, and ‘welcoming’ of the athletes? Amazing…and the announcement of Fiji to the sounds of the Bee Gees ‘staying alive’, brilliant!); to the use of music and dance at Beach Volleyball (the hiring of the X Factor ‘voice’ announcer saying ‘Rakey Rakey’ to introduce the sand ‘rakers’ was classic!). The Games simply brought the best of Aural branding to the fore. Announcements by the Games Makers were helpful, humourous, positive and well-amplified, the use of background music before and after events to whip the crowd into excitement, and to speed exit from the stadiums and locations was extremely well implemented. The use of the Chariots of Fire theme song perhaps was the most brilliant use of a ‘theme tune’, but the ultimate sound being, of course the roar of the crowds cheering the competitors on. This was perhaps the most important element of creating an atmosphere!
NOTE FOR RIO – London played to the strengths of the UK music industry and heritage by using rock and pop to create a soundtrack for the Games, let’s hope Rio goes beyond just Samba!
7. Signage means efficiency. Across the city of London, the unique colours, pictograms and neo-greco typeface of London 2012 was always in evidence to help attendees find, enter and exit venues with clarity and efficiency. In combination with the Games Makers – this gave the impression of efficiency as well as impact. The Olympics is essentially a ‘pop up’ event of enormous magnitude and logistics, therefore the essentials of helping over 300,000 attendees every day ‘find their way’ from home and back was no small task! The use of flags, bunting, digital screens and posters/adhesive stickers meant that Londoners and Olympic tourists alike were able to co-exist on all forms of transport and along major routes of travel. Only the flashing ‘Olympic lanes’ signs that looked like roadwork announcements confused everyone the day they went into effect!
NOTE FOR RIO – the logistic of travel and navigation are essential elements to crack in order to ensure smooth and successful Games. To underestimate the role of legible, visible and cross-lingual signage and pictograms is to potentially create a nightmare for attendees. Get this right, and everyone is happy…and one rule of thumb to apply – too much signage is never enough!
6. Digital demands great ‘visuals’. For the global audience watching on television or on-screens, the ‘look’ of The Games demands that organizers consider in advance the camera angles, the settings and backdrops for the events and athletes. The instantaneous way in which moments of victory are broadcast around the world, and the importance of site selection for events means that no detail for camera or broadcast positioning can be left to chance. This also means, lighting the venues to allow for attendees to film for themselves history-in-the-making is critical, as well as giving attendees ‘photo points’ in the Olympic parks and venues are vital to ensuring that memories are recorded for athletes and spectators alike. Using the British lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe also meant that the lighting of the Opening and Closing stadium events were sure to make a great impression on screens around the world. From lighting the Thames, the Olympic rings floating on the river, through to the use of colour gels and film projections – technology has now progressed to create drama through lighting innovation.
NOTE FOR RIO – Bring the natural colors and beauty of Rio to life and ‘frame’ the venues, the focal points and the vistas for participants. Consider how online audiences and Olympic web fans can access the vibe of the city, and the events in equal measure. The more interactive the better! And, don’t forget – the drama of lighting at night isn’t just about the fireworks but also of inventive and spectacular use of film and video projection opportunities.
5. Open with a big statement, close with a cheer! As everyone knows, only London and Danny Boyle could have countered the size and spectacle of Beijing with the uniquely subtle approach of British humour. The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics needs to make a statement about the host city, and to inspire the tone for the following days and weeks! The Closing Ceremony needs to be the ‘celebration’ and ‘after party’ cue for the city, the athletes and the world! A big brand event needs a great ‘start’ and superb ‘close’, these are the brand rituals that help to define the psychology of the events, and to inspire and engage audiences. Therefore it is no surprise that the UK leveraged its pop culture heritage to great effect.
NOTE FOR RIO – Creativity and authenticity to the city and culture is the most important element for success. Every brand needs to be ‘true’ to itself and an Olympics is no exception. Again, let’s hope that Rio is not just about samba-stereotypes but uses the creative talent of Brazilian culture to shape a world’s perception of The Games.
4. Merchandise history. The Olympic Games are an event and a part of history – so don’t forget the importance of allowing people to ‘buy into’ and ‘own’ a piece of that history. There is a difference between corporate sponsorship and merchandising for The Games, and often this is the subject that many purists believe has a negative effect on the Olympic brand. The accusation is that to use commercial branding (which includes corporate sponsorship and product merchandising) within and around the Games it somehow taints the purity of amateur sporting competition. Of course, this is misguided. Modern culture completely accepts and expects events and occasions like the Olympics to be branded and merchandised. The degree to which sponsorship or commercial promotion of The Games, athletes and hospitality is what is really at question when naysayers critique the Olympics. The usual merchandise of t-shirts, pins and mugs certainly made the grade in London 2012, but there were also some amazing new ideas in merchandising including limited edition sets of items, signed souvenirs by athletes and digital downloads/games that stood apart. In addition, now that the 2012 Olympic games are over, you can buy actual items from the Olympic park to have in your home! And, as mentioned above in number 8, the music from London 2012 has played a pivotal role in this year’s games and has also been a key part of the merchandising strategy, with the soundtrack to the Opening and Closing ceremonies rocketing to number 1 on the iTunes store shortly after release.
NOTE TO RIO – Here is an opportunity to innovate, and to bring the best of Brazilian craftsmanship, ideas and fun to influence what and how the world can ‘buy’ and ‘buy into’ Rio2016! Finding the right balance between sponsorship, corporate hospitality and promotional merchandising and marketing is always the challenge!
3. Build excitement in the city slowly. The citizens of the home crowd city are always the last to get excited about the Olympics, and London was no exception. The grumbles and fears of The Games certainly were many (transport nightmares, rip off prices, congestion and confusion were all predicted and fuelled by the media, and questions over the cost of the Games were never far from the headlines in the build up to the Games). It was only in the last year, and really in the last few weeks before the Opening Ceremony that the visual look and feel of The Games began to make an appearance that then had the effect of inspiring excitement and anticipation. The ‘build’ slowly allowed a story to unfold, and didn’t distract from the Jubilee celebrations that had occurred in London only weeks before. It also allowed for less damage to venue decorations either by vandalism or weather wear and tear. However, the most important element was the positive story of athletes and tourists arriving that fuelled the sense of London being the world’s city for 17 days in July and August 2012.
NOTE TO RIO – Pay attention to the locals and don’t ‘hype’ The Games too much. The more Rio integrates the local populace, and shows the benefits of The Games beyond just tourism and visitor figures, the better it will be for coverage. As it is the first Olympics to be held in Brazil, no doubt it will be more difficult to contain the excitement and anticipation. A slow and steady ‘build’ certainly de-risks the threat of ‘hype’ or disappointment, and like all in life – set realistic expectations knowing that the event itself and adrenaline of the city will always deliver on the day!
2. Vision makes a difference. The pitch that won The Games for London was ‘to inspire a generation’. Nothing could be truer and delivered better than in the London 2012 games. McCann Worldgroup called it the greatest show and event on earth, and one that would inspire people worldwide to take up and support sports. The vision that this would be the ‘golden thread’ was carried out in all communications in the lead up to the Games, and during the Games themselves. Lord Coe often quoted on ‘brand’ and the supporting involvement of communities and of events around every sport certainly brought ‘inspire’ to life, and The Games themselves delivered this with world records and sporting competition drama never in short supply!
NOTE TO RIO – Make the vision more than just a ‘slogan’ or ‘catch phrase’. Integrate the ‘brand’ vision into the purpose and messages of The Games. By taking a simple concept and bringing it to life, visually and verbally with an experience to match, the sports of the Olympics will then be well placed to deliver moments of history. By having a positive point of view about The Games and their role for the future, the legacy of The Games can be sustained and embedded into history.
1. People make the Games. There is no doubt, that the Games Makers of London 2012 represented what The Games are all about! The spirit of volunteerism and engagement was amazing in London. The use of foam hands to point the way, the brightly coloured uniforms and ‘survival kits’ engaged the Makers and gave them a sense of purpose and importance. The Makers helped to encourage visitors as people to mingle, to chat, to laugh and to record memories. Never shy to help take a photograph, nor too ‘official’ to smile and joke with the crowds – the Games Makers are perhaps the most important and best way to bring the Spirit of Rio (and Brazil) to the event! Heroes one and all, never let it be said that London is a cold or unfriendly city! Whatever training they had made the difference too – as it was neither false nor scripted, but authentic and personal. Current press is citing the London 2012 Games as having been amongst the best Games ever and have given the UK a real ‘boost’ on the Happiness Index. One thing we know, Cariocas (as people from Rio are known!) are friendly and have a wonderful spirit of friendship and joy. If anything is for certain, they alone will make Rio 2016 a success if the organizers can recognize and leverage them as part of the brand experience!
The Olympics are the greatest event and ritual of modern times, and one that is grounded in peace and sportsmanship. London loved hosting 2012, and Rio 2016 is certain to raise the bar and carry on the tradition in a way that only Brazilians can!Social tagging: Branding > Business > consumer > country branding > London 2012