Achieve Personal Brand Victory with These Olympics Lessons

Gold medal

With the Olympics, the great thing about living in one country and coming from another is I get to cheer for both, because I have double the chance of celebration. Go Canada, Go Great Britain!

Having worked with a number of former athletes, the Olympics give me the opportunity to witness great triumphs and disappointments that are accompanied by wonderful stories. I appreciate and admire an athlete’s struggles and sacrifices. I am also struck by examples of this year’s younger winners being inspired, even mentored by some of the more established and successful athletes.

Joseph Schooling first met Michael Phelps when he was 13, during the Beijing Olympics when Phelps visited his local swimming club. Eight years later, he beat Phelps in the 100 metre butterfly to win the first ever gold medal for Singapore.

Over the years, the Olympics has become much more of a commercial venture, at least in some aspects. Although host nations seem to be almost guaranteed to lose money, brands like Nike and Under Armour and top athletes usually win. Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have become huge personal brands, with significant endorsement deals and rewards for winning. Even Joseph Schooling earned $750,000 for his medal.

However, I am sure that most Olympic athletes do not ‘do it’ for the money. The investment in supporting them to get to world-class levels can cost a country’s association way more than the bonus for medaling.

For me, one of the best examples of the win being everything was the sheer surprise and joy on the face of 16 year old Canadian Penny Oleksiak when winning a gold medal. Money was not in that picture.

The Olympic brand and logo does have huge monetary and recognition value and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is almost manic about its control. This is in part to help protect the sponsors and the huge investments they make in wanting to be recognised and associated with the event.

So what are the Olympics showing us that you can apply to your personal brand?

  1. Closely monitor where and when your brand is used.There have been numerous instances of the IOC stepping in and asking businesses to remove associations with their logo. In London 4 years ago, a butchers shop had to remove a display of sausages laid out in the 5 rings format!

It’s not likely someone is going to use your image to promote their sausages, however you could set up alerts and tracking of your name, especially for on-line mentions. That way you can thank those for mentioning you, respond to and engage your followers and community and refute things that are not on brand or detract from your personal brand.

  1. Yesterday’s news is old news. NBC, the American Olympic broadcaster in the US received huge backlash in Rio and 4 years ago in London, and even parody Twitter feeds were set up,because of their delaying in showing major sporting events at the games in prime time. American viewers were seeking out the Canadian CBC’s excellent coverage and live feed to stay current.

Technology and access to information is now immediate and people expect responses straight away. Don’t be beholden to every request and comment and set out a clear and consistent strategy for responding. If you do not answer e-mail on weekends or return voice-mails within 48 hours, make it clear ahead of time so your community knows what to expect.  If you don’t, then be ready for a NBC style backlash or worse, disengagement.

  1. When you get Silver, you have not lost Gold.There were some wonderful examples of sporting behaviour in these Olympics. One athlete fell and one of their competitors helped them back up all the way to the finish, even though they both lost the chance of a place on the podium. However, as in life, there will always be a few detractors, such as the American swimmers falsifying a robbery to cover up their vandalism.

Overall the Olympic spirit is still very strong. According to IOC founder Pierre de Coubertin, the ideal of the Olympics was The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” 

Sometime taking part and doing your best is more important and is still adding to, building and defining your personal brand. You do not have to secure every contract, win every promotion or lead every team. Your unique skills and abilities can be applied in many ways and have impact and relevance even though you may not end up on the podium.

Now get out there with your personal brand and “just do it’.

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