by Hans Eisenbeis
The 2012 London Olympics are upon us, and before we get too immersed in the 100-meter butterfly or the triple jump, we should pause and consider what the Games mean to a world that continues the sometimes painful process of shrinking. Even though markets and borders are more open today than ever before, the Olympics remind us that national pride continues to be a powerful force in the world, and not just on the playing field.
In the eurozone, for example, we’ve been watching the slo-mo train wreck of economies in Italy, Greece and Spain, and because Europe’s economy is unified by a single currency, southern Europe’s pain is becoming northern Europe’s as Germany is forced to cover massive liabilities on the Mediterranean. More than a couple of EU member states are chafing at austerity measures and daydreaming about economic autonomy in the form of lire, drachmas and pesetas. This summer, perhaps the Olympics can do what they so often do: distract us for two weeks from pressing economic and political issues, and turn our attention to the nobility of athletic competition among nations.
What can marketers get out of London? First, they should remember that the Olympic spirit is founded on the ideal of amateurism, which explicitly says that money is not everything. And that in itself can be a refreshing message given the assumed omnipresence of big brands at such events. Brands that leverage the visibility of the Olympics know that consumers want a message that mobilizes values like honor, integrity and fairness. Gold-medal campaigns for the Olympics look for marketing ROI not on the bottom line, but in human capital and global goodwill. And that’s a flag everyone can march behind, no matter which village they call home.