Debased Metal: Restoring The Currency Of The Olympic Brand

It’s hardly news that the Olympic movement returned from Rio with its precious brand badly tarnished, causing many to question its value to the world

For marketers, the Games promised to provide the type of good news stories that are an invaluable asset to those who wish to connect with customers in a powerful way.

Instead, what dominates the headlines as the athletes arrive home is yet more evidence of the corruption that undermined much of the honest effort of the vast majority of those participating in the Games.

Although many of those taking part are professional athletes, the Olympic Games continue to be one of the world’s last major events where amateur ideals prevail. For most of those participants, the currency of the Olympics is not, as some would suggest, the precious metals of gold, silver and bronze, but rather the opportunity to compete with the best of the best on the world stage. For them, participation itself is the prize, the opportunity to line up alongside your peers from the other nations of the world and champion your country as an Olympian.

For the marketer, this currency is invaluable. Its value is underpinned in turn by the gold standard of fairness. When that standard is debased, then much of the value of the Olympics as a marketing partner is lost.

For too long now, the Olympic movement has sent mixed messages to the world about what it values. From lead-up to aftermath of these Games, the vicious scandals that elbowed the stories of great feats aside have reflected an organisation that serves too many masters at the expense of its greatest resource, the Olympians.

It’s obvious from the appalled reaction of much of the world to the cheating, and the rigging, and the touting of these last Games, that the Olympic ideals remain as compelling as ever. The organisation entrusted with guarding those ideals however seems hopelessly conflicted. Their words and their deeds, and more often their paralysis and silence, shout out loud of a movement divided against itself.

Meanwhile, too few marketers are showing the leadership needed to help restore the currency of the Olympic brand. These last days and weeks suggest that only money talks to those who have betrayed the ideals of the organisation they represent. Marketers can exert a huge influence on whether and where and how the money is spent throughout the Olympic movement. The all too rare deeds of those who do take a stand shine bright in the naughty world of the Olympics: Speedo’s dropping of their dishonest star athlete and, closer to home, Bank Of Ireland’s reminder to Katie that they remain squarely in the corner of their fallen champion.

Of course, this takes courage. But then courage is what participation in the Olympics has always been about. The payoff for the marketer, and for the athlete, is likely to be the highest prize of all, an Olympics based on fair competition between champions from every nation on earth, and a brand currency fully restored.