The Olympics are just the beginning

August 4, 2016

For the past four years, athletes all over the world have been getting ready for this moment – the Rio 2016 opening ceremony.

Some have probably been working on getting ready their entire lives. It’s time for the Olympics, the biggest and most diverse sporting stage in the world.

Billions of dollars have been invested in getting athletes ready and ensuring facilities are completed (or not). Organisations have prepped their athletes the best ways they can, and brand owners have been making sure their messages have been heard, seen and shared as much as possible. It’s going to be a great spectacle. We will all be glued to the screen following the competitions – watching the commercials, learning more about the different sports, making new heroes, as well as discovering all about the brands and organisations that support their favourite new athletes.

During London 2012, there were 5,600 hours of footage made available to the rights holding broadcasters. This footage was transformed into 99,982 hours of TV coverage (the equivalent of over 11 years of broadcasting), aired by more than 500 television stations in 220 territories. The average viewer consumed 7.5 hours of TV coverage. Then factor in the consumption across websites, mobile and tablets (there were a total of 8.5 billion page views from 621 million unique visitors).

To put it into context – Olympic broadcasters had the potential audience of 4.8 billion viewers. The global population in 2012 was 6.8 billion. The figures are mind-blowing.

But in a couple of weeks it is all over. Life goes back to normal for most of us. Winners at the games will probably experience a change in their day-to-day, but for everyone else, the clock sort of resets and we start thinking about next time. And that’s how the world turns.

For the thousands of organisations and brands that are behind the athletes the work should just be beginning. They have invested tremendous resources getting ready for the Games. Why should that reset? Why not capitalise on that work well beyond the Games?

As a company that builds lasting brands we’ve been slightly surprised to see the limited shelf life that a majority of the Olympic-themed campaigns have. And before you say, “well, that’s because they were built FOR the Olympics and that event is over” – we are not that glib.

Why does it have to be that way? Why not build stories around how the athletes return to training; how they see their future post-Games; how brands are continuing their support; how the coaches are helping their athletes improve; how the heroes are mentoring the younger athletes; how schools, clubs and local authorities might be creating new initiatives to increase participation. There are so many story arches to pursue – stories that will resonate with audiences and draw people in.

Sure, it is easy if you have a gold medal winner on your team, but what about all the other athletes that didn’t win? The ones that made just as many sacrifices, that set their alarm at 4am every morning for 4 whole years, that pushed as hard as they could but on the day it just wasn’t enough?

And for the organisations behind the athletes that are interested in getting more people into their sports, the ‘after-party’ makes even more sense. You have just had millions watch your best athletes compete – and now those new fans want to know more about getting involved in taekwondo, diving or wrestling. Are you ready for the tsunami in interest? Are you giving us the same thrill when we come to your website or when we see your ad on the side of a bus? Or will you let us down? All of the collateral, all of the content you have produced for the Olympics should live on, and be put front and centre. Reminding us why we got so excited about the sport in the first place when we saw our heroes taking part in Rio 2016.

We constantly read about sport participation in decline. Older generations are too busy for organised sport, and millennials chase Pokemon rather than records, or pick up iPads instead of Epee’s. We have to make sports even more exciting and relevant. And all of the collateral that was created for the Olympics can do just that – if it’s applied in the correct ways. The closing ceremony of any Olympic Games should be viewed as the critical starting line for everyone.