The Olympics represent the height of storytelling

Let's turn our attention away from PR agencies and, instead, consider The Greatest Show on Earth: or The Olympics as it is better known.

Let's turn our attention away from PR agencies for a change and, instead, consider The Greatest Show on Earth: or The Olympics as it is better known.

The Games have certainly captivated my interest over the last seven days, as I know they have for many of my countrymen in the UK, as well as the population of the US and countries way beyond.

Modern branding and marketing is very much about storytelling and engagement, and The Olympics are a perfect example of something that has the power to draw people in and engage their emotions like nothing else. The five rings transcend sport and bring people and nations together in a way politicians can only dream about.

The Olympic stories are too numerous to mention, but here are just a few that particularly caught my eye this week.

The widely varying rollercoaster fortunes of the US men's and women's gymnastics teams, with the Bronx's John Orozco, Florida's Danell Leyva, Michigan's Jordyn Wieber, and Virginia's Gabby Douglas all having great storylines to go with their amazing talent that said a lot about modern America.

The Queen of Great Britain's granddaughter Zara Phillips followed in her mother's footsteps (or horse steps) by winning a medal in the equestrian event, though hers was silver compared to mom's gold, in a way that maybe said a little about modern Britain.

The smile of 17-year-old US swimmer Missy Franklin captivated the whole world as she stormed to multiple medals, all the time making friends along the way. And who could forget the rivalry in the pool between the greatest Olympian of all time – Michael Phelps – and his compatriot Ryan Lochte.

British diver Tom Daley missed out on a medal in heartbreaking fashion after leading his event with just two rounds to go. Daley had a rough year that included the untimely death of his father and some very cruel bullying that exhibited itself in person at his school and on Twitter.

Finally, there was the uniquely British spectacle that was the Opening Ceremony, with elements ranging from the Queen and James Bond, to a paean to the British national health system, to David Beckham, to Paul McCartney. Some were mystified and confused, others were enthralled. It wasn't Beijing – who could compete with that as a spectacle – but it definitely portrayed a typically idiosyncratic representation of the host country.

As always with The Games, there has been controversy - especially relating to the fact that these are the first social media Olympics. Two athletes were banned for sending racist tweets, and US soccer star Hope Solo was almost sent home for a Twitter diatribe against commentator and former player Brandi Chastain. Twitter traffic records were also consistently broken through the week.

The athletes joined up to protest against the organizing committee's Rule 40, which bans them from appearing in advertising during and shortly before the games for companies that are not an official sponsor or broadcaster. The ban is aimed at stemming ambush marketing and it includes mentions on Twitter and other social media, and the athletes are not happy about their personal freedom being curtailed in this way.

Twitter and official US Olympics broadcaster NBC drew the ire of the Twitter community when LA-based journalist Guy Adams had his account suspended after complaining about NBC's time-delayed coverage of the Olympics. The fact that NBC and Twitter have a commercial relationship around the Games didn't sweeten the pill, and many were stunned Twitter would do this when, for example, it let film director Spike Lee keep his account when he retweeted an address for Trayvon Martin killer George Zimmerman that turned out to be wrong.

Twitter quickly came to its senses when a firestorm broke out on the network, but it was a clumsy communications move unbefitting of the open nature of social media.

Finally, the NBC time-delay debate really did divide viewers.

On the one hand, there are those who simply can't believe the network doesn't show the major events such as the opening ceremony, big swimming finals, and 100m athletics live in this day and age when results are available instantly online and via social media.

On the other hand, NBC drew record ratings for its primetime roundup programs, pleasing advertisers and tapping into an audience that clearly isn't as social media-savvy as the rest of the country. Personally, I can't help feeling NBC would get even bigger total audiences by both showing the events live and running the primetime roundups.

As someone said to me this week, I didn't buy my 52 inch HD TV to have to watch the Olympics live on my laptop via a juddery live stream with second-rate commentators…

But, whichever way you look at it, the 30th Olympiad has once again proven to be The Greatest Show on Earth and it represents a brand of communication that simply doesn't exist in any other form – and there is still more than a week of The Games to go, including the flagship track and field athletics events.

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