Branding Efforts Of Olympic Proportions

If you are like me, you were voraciously watching the London Olympics last month and are still probably sad that it’s over. Watching so many sporting events, featuring athletes from different countries, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I always watch sports through my marketer’s lens and as a result, examine slogans, uniforms, and ad campaigns with a critical eye. My friends watching with me may not appreciate my verbal analysis of such things during the action, but I can’t help myself.

One thing I kept noticing was the absolute unified look of Team Great Britain. More than any other country, the entire team was connected, across all sports—from the tiniest of Speedos to track warm-up jackets and even Andy Murray’s tennis shirt—Team Great Britain had stellar branding. It was so good, in fact, that I am still thinking about it. This massive effort was the brain child of designer Stella McCartney, whose stylish uniforms helped dub the event “The Fashion Olympics.”

So why do I care so much about team branding? And, more importantly, why should nonprofits care? It’s simple: if you don’t make a lasting impression, people will forget about you. Branding expert Martin Lindstrom, for example, believes that exceptional branding can create followers with a religious-like dedication. He wrote that there are countless parallels between religion and brands—connections he discovered while researching and writing his fascinating book Buyology. Lindstrom, as well as most marketers, agree that Apple does an impeccable job with its branding—from product design, to online presence, to physical retail stores. And there is no question that Apple has staunch followers and repeat customers who are fiercely loyal. 

According to Lindstrom, “Most of the world's most influential religions represent several, if not all, of these foundational pillars: a powerful vision, sensory appeal, storytelling, grandeur, symbols, mystery, rituals, enemies, a sense of belonging, and evangelism. As I have come to learn, Apple is no exception.” (See his article: “10 Points Business Leaders Can Learn From Steve Jobs”)

Like sports fans, I’d wager that many participants and donors are as dedicated and passionate about their chosen causes as others are to their religious beliefs. You may not want Apple-sized fanaticism attached to your organization or cause, but you definitely should want brand evangelists—dedicated people who believe in your mission enough to share it with everyone they know, both personally and on social networks; who successfully fundraise on your behalf, and who repeatedly participate in your charity events. Strong branding and messaging will help you get there. 

If an entire nation can successfully brand itself for an event as large and varied as the Olympics, nonprofits and others should take note. Granted, the Team Great Britain effort was backed by huge funding and fueled by a world-famous fashion designer, but these aren’t prerequisites for success.  Charity events and mission-focused organizations can have equally effective branding for a lot less money. It takes a dedicated effort from all staff to promote a brand with pre-determined guidelines, but it’s worth it. 

Here are some nonprofits that take branding seriously, and have a lasting impression as a result:

  • The MS Society’s MuckRuckus National Events. The name is as quirky as the events, and the logo is fun and dirty, representing the memorable experience that participants will have. The language they use is also branded: “Get Filthy for a Good Cause.” MS Society is also a great example of good multi-media branding. (Check out this video for proof of that.) Those who complete their challenge for a good cause will inevitably talk about it for a long time to come.
  • The Jimmy Fund Walk showcases primary colors in graphic blocks, consistent use of fonts and branded shirts, buttons and medals for participants. Fundraising for causes is a lot more successful when events are social and fun. In this case, the branding helps create an energetic vibe that inspires people to give and walk for the cause.
  • On a much smaller and local scale, the Northeast Animal Shelter has simple and friendly branding that runs consistent through their online communications and physical space. They use color to highlight action items and feature “Pets of the Week” on their website, and their shelter walls and doors follow the same color scheme. Adoption Success Stories are an effective part of their messaging. You get a good feeling from this place and that encourages people to adopt animals and donate.

Your event or organization might not even be a fraction of the size of the London Olympics, but when you are planning events and creating communications, think about Team Great Britain. Make an impression that will last. Branding that creates a solid, powerful message is well within your reach. Go for it!

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2 comments about "Branding Efforts Of Olympic Proportions ".
  1. Howard Brodwin from Sports and Social Change , September 18, 2012 at 12:10 p.m.
    Great points Michelle - I thought Team GB was well conceived and executed, and it carried out through the Paralympics as well. A fully integrated strategy. On the book tip, Douglas Atkin's "The Culting of Brands" shares much the same POV as Lindstrom on how brands develop followings that go beyond brand loyalty and into deeply rooted belief systems about what the brand means to them. I've always been fascinated in how brands achieve that - and if in the long run, it's really healthy.
  2. Michele Campbell from King Fish Media , September 21, 2012 at 7:15 a.m.
    Thanks, Howard. I haven't read that book so thanks for the tip.