“Are the Olympics worth it for a ‘host’ city?” – this is the question that everyone always asks from a perspective of disdain, disbelief and cynical grumbling. Given that London is hosting the 2012 Summer Games, and far be it for the British to be the most optimistic and positive of people – there is an irony in the very rhetorical asking of the question. When we ask ‘worth it?’ – are we expecting a fully rational and accountant’s view of the answer? Do we need to have a fully rational and factually based formula to answer this? Almost as if to prove that something as abstract in emotion as the Olympics must somehow be managed, measured and monitored in order for us to determine whether or not to hold them, watch them or participate in them.
Let’s get to the answer quickly then… YES, of course they are ‘worth’ it! It’s the Olympics for darn sake!?!
No other major international event carries with it such symbolism of human endeavor and the positive ideals of peaceful competition. At least in 776B.C. it was meant to be a deliberate ‘time for peace’ as various city-states agreed to cease all conflict during the ‘Games’. The Games occurred along with other Pan-Hellenic competitions over a four-year period (known as the Olympiad) and were accompanied by rituals, feasts, celebrations and the immortalization of the winning athletes. The point being – these were the pinnacle of celebrating the best of human competition via sport and endurance.
The origins of the modern Olympic movement started with the Wenlock Olympian Games of 1859, and the spirit of amateur sporting competition. Baron de Coubertin attended these in 1890 and he was inspired to start the International Olympic Committee and a ‘moving’ Olympiad of every 4 years to promote international competition. This subsequently became the model for a rotating ‘host’ nation with ‘national teams’ competing. As the 20th century unfolded, the Olympics took on a mantle of national pride and ‘ego’ which meant the ‘Games’ became associated with a form of geo-political competition – not only to host, but to compare ‘medal totals’. It was in the 1980’s that the ‘Corporate Sponsorship’ issue began to arise as the ‘Games’ became a vehicle for companies to promote their brand image and profile. And thus, the intersection of Corporate Brand Marketing and National Brand identity forged the view of the Olympics as something to question as it has moved beyond the ‘purist’ view of an athletic competition staged in times of peace.
SO, the point of The Games is – every four years the world’s athletes gather to compete, to focus on non-violent or deadly competition and share the passion, inspiration and excitement of individuals competing for gold and glory. Now that the Olympics have been turned into a ‘branded event’ (and associated with marketing ‘ego’ as much as national identity and pride) it is less a rational evaluation that matters than an emotional assessment.
As is the case with all things, and brands in particular – EMOTIONS more often than not determine what we do, what we choose and why we do the things we do. I am sure that there was no debit and credit analysis done before many young Olympians competing decided to take up their sports…young athletes’ parents did not do a quick cost-benefit analysis on whether or not the financial investment was worth taking their children to sports practice every day from age 6 – 18.
So, to ‘ask’ are they worth it…First of all, ‘worth’ is a funny word. It conjures up images of value, reward-versus-effort, cost and benefits as well as merit. Many confuse worth with a calculation, or an outcome of tangible value and evidence. And, it is here that the confusion starts. For when you apply the concept of value and ROI (return on investment) to something like the Olympics, you enter a murky world of not so transparent or obvious accountancy. Complex inter-relationships of budgets, subsidies, spend and (expected) return and profits which are quite alien to the concept of emotions, perceptions and feelings. Yet, everyday we purchase and choose BRANDS on the basis of emotions, perceptions and feelings.
There is no doubt I could write a thesis on the merits and subtleties of whether the costs of hosting the Olympics outweigh the benefits (both tangible and intangible). I could write a thesis on the economic effects and historic examples of what cities have spent to host the Olympics and whether The Games are economically viable or have positive economic impact. I could write pages on the ROI and cost/benefit analysis on the ‘feel good’ factor of what The Games provide, or the ‘Pride and Prestige’ factor that is derived from being a winning ‘host’ city. But, I won’t – and, you reader would probably argue with me nonetheless.
Rather, I would prefer to share a simple tenet of good branding which applies to the Olympics and particularly to the reason why they are good for the world (and the host city). Simply put – as in ancient Greece, the Olympics remind us mortals that we are human. We – as the planet’s citizens – share a common destiny. Our humanity is anchored in emotions of which sporting competition draws our interest, our passion and our attention. Sport is one of the truly honorable and worthwhile pursuits in a world too often portrayed in the business of media reporting as one-big corporate controlled ‘stage-show’ or dangerous and cynically governed network of special and elitist interests. Yet, we await this global spectacle with eager anticipation.
On the streets of London now in July 2012 the energy is beginning to surge as the Opening Ceremony gets underway, as the weeks ahead promise the potential of new records being set, and new athletic heroes to emerge. As the world’s VIPs both come to entertain, and be entertained. As the world’s business leaders come to strike deals, and flex corporate muscles. Like in Ancient times, new rituals of business, media, branding and entertainment carry on the traditions by which humans acknowledge and celebrate our existence. It is estimated that £9billion has been spent on the Games by the UK government, and that the ‘value’ to the economy could see an additional £5billion worth of business being transacted directly related to the Games and their corresponding effect. As the rational arguments are put forward and phrased in terms such as ‘legacy’ and ‘infrastructural value’ – it remains to be highlighted how important it is for the world to support events that bring us closer together, that place a future positive perspective onto what every four years can bring and for the sheer emotive entertainment of athletic competition. And, whether naysayers like it or not – Corporate and Sponsor branding is good for the games, and good for people too. Branding and brand entertainment is a ritual of our culture, and helps us choose and select brands and products or services that make our lives’ better. Without the ‘marketing hype or color’ The Games would be rather dull or similar to a large-scale communist or fascist propaganda event. No other event carries with it the promise of so much passion, inspiration and enjoyment for so many people around the world. And, as you will see over the next month with the Olympic and Paralympic Games – there is a reason why we anticipate them like the Ancient Greeks did every four years with so much enthusiasm.
At FutureBrand we are proud to have both helped to create Sydney 2000 and now, via McCann World Group delivering the ‘brand’ of London 2012. Being a part of history is always worth the effort!
Are they worth it? Of course they are – so, bring on the Games! Congratulations London 2012… and see you in Rio in 2016!Social tagging: Branding > Business > consumers > London 2012 > Olympics