Country Brands And The Olympics

Just like clockwork, the Olympics are here again. Since the change to two-year rotations between winter and summer games, it seems like we are always hearing about the wonders or limitations of the next host city. As cities and countries beg for the honor, we hold our breath with suspense (for what feels like 20 years), when finally the decision is revealed in what turns out to be only the day after tomorrow.

All this focus on where the Olympics are now and where they will be in 10 years started us thinking about where they might be if consumers, not the Olympic governing bodies, picked the locations. To learn more about how American consumers see various locales, we tapped into Landor's consumer brand equity tool, BrandAsset Valuator (BAV). In the United States, we measure over 2,500 brands annually on 70 key measures of equity and imagery. BAV includes products, services, companies, TV shows, and just about every type of brand you can think of -- including 28 countries.

According to 2009 BAV data, the following 28 countries were ranked by their overall brand health:



1. United States 15. Russia
2. Japan 16. Spain
3. Australia 17. Holland
4. United Kingdom 18. South Africa
5. Canada 19. Brazil
6. Israel 20. Chile
7. Italy 21. Singapore
8. Switzerland 22. Puerto Rico
9. Ireland 23. Mexico
10. Germany 24. India
11. China 25. Costa Rica
12. Scotland 26. Argentina
13. France 27. Cuba
14. Hong Kong 28. Hungary

So what does this mean? First of all, as citizens and residents we feel good about our country and would probably be just as happy to have the Olympics here all the time -- economic factors aside. Year after year and on nearly all measures, the United States is ranked as the number one country brand. It is tops on all four key pillars: differentiation, relevance, esteem, and knowledge. In fact, the United States is usually rated the number one brand out of all 2,500 brands.

Our next strongest brand is Japan. Because we often consider ourselves biased toward Western countries, this may at first seem surprising. But the data doesn't support that self-critical notion. Japan scores well on all pillars except the relevance measure. This means that Americans find Japan differentiated (unique and distinctive); esteem it (hold it in high regard); and even claim to really understand Japan (high knowledge score). Who knows, maybe Japan's heritage of successful Olympics -- Tokyo, Sapporo, and Nagano -- may have helped build its brand. Certainly this is what the organizers have in mind when they vie for the very expensive privilege of hosting them. If Americans voted for an Olympic location, Japan would have a pretty good chance of winning.

Next, we have Australia -- always an interesting country to analyze. While Australia is well differentiated, well known, and more relevant than Japan, American consumers don't esteem it as highly as some other countries. That usually means they just don't like and respect it so much. Australia scores lower on esteem than the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Canada. Looking deeper into the data, Australia falls down on being innovative and seen as a leader, two attributes Japan does well on. However, we do find Australia charming, carefree, and down to earth. Sounds like that old "shrimp on the barbie" campaign endures. Time for something new to move Australia to the next level and give us something to admire? Another great Olympics?

But what about Canada? This did start out as an article about Olympic locales, and Vancouver is just around the corner. In our list of 28, Canada is the fifth strongest country brand. Breaking it down, we give Canada high scores for differentiation but only middling respect in terms of relevance and esteem. Why? Canada falls wa-a-a-a-a-y down on innovation -- scoring only in the seventh percentile. It also underperforms most other country brands on leadership, prestige, and being stylish.

At the same time, we believe Canada is friendly, fun, healthy, especially kind, obliging and caring, socially responsible, down to earth, and even gaining in popularity. A nice fit for the Olympics, and a profile that should encourage visitorship and viewership. The question is, can the Vancouver Olympics help build the Canadian brand in the areas in which it is weakest-style, prestige, and innovation? A brilliant design and great-looking games with lots of new ideas and effective use of technology could go a long way to rectify those weaknesses. Let's see how it all comes out.

2 comments about "Country Brands And The Olympics ".
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  1. Susan Von Seggern from SvS PR, January 28, 2010 at 1:14 p.m.

    Since Canada, especially Vancouver, is (in my extensive experience of 6x year biz trips for 3 years and working with a large marketing staff there) long on style and innovation, so they shouldn't have much trouble convincing the world of it! Olympics often vault towns to world class city status and I expect the games will do that for Vancouver. My experience working with Canadians was so amazing, I miss it. Everyone was super nice, smart, hard working, stylish, good looking and creative. Vancouver is an exceptionally together city which is why it is consistently named ones of the best places to live in North America. I wish all my Van friends a great Olympics!

  2. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, January 29, 2010 at 4:29 a.m.

    Siberia needs an Olympics - Let's get creative

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