Brand values at the Olympics

For those of us who transact in brand value related to the Olympics, the biggest winner may not be a traditional consumer brand at all, but "Brand GB" - Great Britain itself.

For those of us who transact in brand value related to the Olympics, the biggest winner may not be a traditional consumer brand at all, but “Brand GB” – Great Britain itself.

Here's a great nation that's been stung in recent months by political and operational infighting and a wavering domestic confidence in the value of this Olympic investment. That just worsened the sting of its defeats this year on the world's sporting stage – including an early exit from the soccer European Championship and a heartbreaking defeat for Andy Murray at Wimbledon in the men's final just four weeks ago.

The British – excepting perhaps the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson – presented a stiff upper lip to the world in the face of that criticism.

Suddenly, days before the Games, cyclist Bradley Wiggins' remarkable victory in the Tour de France shifted attention from “what could go wrong” to “what was possible” for this team and this nation. A quirky yet authentic tribute to British culture, history, and the arts at the Opening Ceremony helped melt away the last traces of cynicism and compelled even the most skeptical tabloid critics to wave the Union Jack.

That national dream has become reality ever since. Team GB was, improbably, third in the overall medal count at the end of Thursday's events. British athletes have dominated cycling, rowing, sailing, and equestrianism, and performed admirably in athletics, among others. Perhaps most emotional of all, Murray found an extra something inside to take Olympic gold on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon against Roger Federer.

Barring any glitches on the final weekend, these Games will be not merely a huge boost to British pride but also have the opportunity to live up to its aspiration “To inspire a generation.”

The question now for “Brand GB” is how to make that happen once the excitement of the Olympic flame is gone, along with 24/7 coverage. While there is a national Olympic legacy plan in place, here are three ways to use the current “brand boost” to help achieve that goal:

  • Nearly every member of the Olympic family, and every athlete, has commented on the spirit of the thousands of volunteers who have made these Games a success. Build on this shared sense of national purpose and goodwill into a national call for service, and a permanent culture of volunteerism. 
  • Establish a clear path and accountabilities for the future of these considerable infrastructure investments from the Games. There's no doubt that Olympic Park has created energy around a blighted section of East London. Keeping it as the centerpiece of a thriving, sustainable urban development will require tapping into that spirit of national pride.

  • Perhaps the greatest impact would be to use this moment of unity to foster a national conversation on health and wellness. Just as the advent of National Health Service was celebrated as a triumph during the Opening Ceremony – perhaps curiously to visitors from afar, but intensely meaningful to its citizens – these Games can be a beacon of what is possible with a national commitment to healthy active lifestyles. Doing so will help ensure that every citizen becomes a part of “Team GB.”

JJ Carter is president and senior partner for the US West region at Fleishman-Hillard.

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