The London Games were great. By the end of the summer, as the flame was handed to Rio, the British media was drunk on a new patriotism: ‘we’re not who we thought we were’ was the message. The Olympics had worked their magic.
CBS was just one of many foreign media to notice the difference in mood:
At times dramatic, at times hilarious, the ceremony, orchestrated by Slumdog Millionare creator Danny Boyle, depicted Britain as it would like to be seen by the rest of the world: open, generous and proud of its past while braced for a high-tech and, notably, multiracial future.
I wouldn’t argue with any of that, and as a Londoner experiencing the Games first hand, I was immensely proud that Jaques Rogge was moved to describe the UK as the “beating heart of the Olympic movement”.
But there’s a problem. The benefits outlined above were delivered not by Rogge’s IOC, but by Coe’s London Organising Committee (LOCOG), and the television treatment was handled in the UK by the BBC. Whereas the broader impact of the Olympics was much more marginal beyond the host nation.
This leaves the question: what did the IOC do to spread the Olympic message? Sure it was successful in securing global sponsorship and TV deals which are vital to the finances of all the International Federations and NOC’s. And the TV deals plus the recent YouTube partnership ensured the Games could be seen across the globe. But how well did the IOC really market its Games outside the UK?
Jump is based in Switzerland, not London, and from here you got a different picture of London 2012 and its impact. I spoke with friends, colleagues, sports business professionals in Italy, Spain, France and Switzerland (and, just as importantly, listened to their children and watched the Games through their media). Two points came through:
1 16 Days of TV.
The London Games were not epoch changing. For most countries, the Olympics is just a chance to see national heroes perform on the world stage. The broader effects – the warm glow – was more marginal when viewed via a TV feed.
The most high profile example of a pure focus on ratings came from the IOC’s biggest commercial partner, NBC, which was much criticised for its approach to monetising the rights, and the absence of any live coverage of the Paralympics.
2 A Zero Sum Game.
For every medal Team GB wins, another country turns off. That’s how sport works. There was very little for the 1 billion people in India to follow this summer. As one of the few major economies still growing, this must be an issue for the IOC? The IOC needs more countries winning more medals. Having so many medals concentrated in a relatively small country like the UK helped ensure enormous local engagement and strong national revenue, but sport and the IOC’s long term future depend on building success elsewhere. This is both a commercial and a marketing challenge, and makes the choice of new sports key to reaching new markets.
The introduction of golf and rugby will reinforce the immediate commercial value of the Olympics for Rio 2016 because of its appeal to a certain demographic. However it will hardly move the needle when it comes to spreading the Olympic message beyond its traditional markets.
Image Credit: kevin dooley