Tag Archives: Olympic Games

Rio Got a Bad Rap

After spending the two weeks in Rio, traveling to and from venues, attending several events, and visiting all of the different Olympic regions, we can say, unequivocally, that Rio’s troubles were as overblown as Ryan Lochte’s fabricated robbery account. We at Performance Research deal in facts and direct observations, not media hype or hearsay.

So, what did we experience? An Olympics very much like previous games, but with a Brazilian personality (as it should be). Were there some hiccups?  Of course. But, nothing out of the ordinary and none as severe or as scary as you’ve probably heard about. This has been my (Bill Doyle, Co-Founder) 8th Olympic games, and Performance Research Co–Founder Jed Pearsall’s 15th, dating all the way back to Lake Placid in 1980. So, we’ve seen it all. Below is a recap of our observations from Rio:

  • Zika and Dirty Water: Zika is clearly a terrible virus with significant effects, carried by a mosquito. But, did it mean that the whole place was infested? While we applied a repellant each day as a precaution, not once did we see or even experience any mosquitos. Just as Lyme disease, carried by deer ticks in New England is a terrible infliction, we could not imagine anyone telling loved ones to avoid New England at all cost because we have disease spreading ticks. For certain people (expecting mothers), I can see the concern, but otherwise the whole craziness appeared to be way overblown. As for the polluted water, it surely was a concern in certain areas. But, after better understanding the geography we realized that those areas were limited to a closed reservoir and a specific section of a protected bay, very close to the city center. However, the ocean waves along the beautiful beaches were as clean and clear as any we’ve seen and this is where much of the sailing took place.
  • Unfinished Venues: We did not experience any unfinished venues. All had seats, all were new or renovated, all had concessions, and better than most US venues, all had clean and available bathrooms. There were no hanging wires or gushing plumbing anywhere to be seen. The overall Olympic park had a brand new, “just opened” feel about it with only a few shortcuts noticeable here or there (for example, the walkways were entirely made from pavers, with some a little loose under-foot) but nothing we could find that would give the impression that they were not complete and ready to go.
  • Rampant Crime: I think the media needs to take a deep breath and look at the facts. Face it, Rio is a city of 6.2 million people. That’s over twice as many people as Houston and Chicago, a third more than LA, and nearly the size of New York. Of course in any city this large, there are good and bad parts of town. Crime happens every day throughout all of these cities. But, we never saw or experienced any of it. Not once did we feel unsafe or insecure. The Olympic park was actually in an area that most Americans would consider the suburbs: at the end of a street lined with car dealerships, shopping malls, and a huge multiplex movie theater. Think US1 in Aventura Florida, not downtown Miami.

However, Copacabana and Ipanema are beach front urban areas with very much the same look and feel as Waikiki in Honolulu. While the petty crimes reported on those Rio beaches are quite common, nothing seemed out of the ordinary for an urban area such as this. We heard a few reports of international tourists leaving their back-packs unattended, and just like anywhere else in the world, somebody swiped them – no different than in the US.

This is where I think Rio was getting undeservedly slammed the most, and why Lochte’s false account struck such a nerve with Brazilians. Imagine for a moment that these games were awarded to Chicago, with their current record breaking murder rates. The world-wide headlines would read: “Don’t travel to Chicago, they are murdering people in the streets!” Is this fair? Would you assume you were in grave danger by shopping on the Miracle Mile, jogging by the lake, or attending an event in Soldier Field? No. But that was what was happening to Rio. Can bad things happen? Of course, but just like Ryan Lochte’s fabricated story, it seemed all way over blown with the serious crimes taking place in areas not anywhere near where an Olympic visitor would travel.

  • Long lines: These claims were absolutely false. We went to 11 different events, including high profile swimming, gymnastics and beach volleyball. Only once (at the Equestrian center) did we wait more than 3 minutes in any security or ticket line. However, even that 20 minute wait went by fast as a Brazilian military band entertained the crowd with a pop-up concert.
  • Concession food shortages: Are American reporters getting just a bit spoiled with our high end cuisine and ample designer food choices that populate our sports venues of late? It is my only explanation for these accounts. Rio’s Olympic venues had more than enough concessions, but they were limited to a small variety of chips, burgers, ice pops, and mini-pizzas. Not gourmet, but nobody was going to starve. There was one oddity we couldn’t grasp however. When ordering any food or drinks, the procedure is to first stand in a line to pay for the items, then take the order receipt “tickets” to the accompanying counter to again wait in a separate line to redeem these tickets for the actual items. You had to go through this process even for a simple item like bottled water or Coca-Cola. Odd, but it is apparently how they do things in Brazil. Chalk that up to local culture.
  • Traffic and transportation issues: The BRT and Olympic venue transportation worked like clockwork for us. We purchased an unlimited weekly pass for about $50US, and, once we figured out the system, never waited more than 2-3 minutes for a bus or train. They created unique closed off lanes for these Olympic busses that allowed them to race at top speed past any traffic and deliver us right to the venues. Coming from “drive ourselves” dyed-in-the-wool car renters, getting us to use and admit the public transit system was pretty good is a rarity. But, even we gave up the keys and embraced the bus transport system. Compared to Atlanta, that had huge lines and way over-crowded trains, Rio was a breeze.
  • Empty seats in stands: Nothing new. This happens at every Olympic games. Remember London? Rio actually did a few things better than any games we’ve attended. They had a centralized ticket website, along with several ticketing locations, continually updated where tickets turned in by sponsors or other agencies could easily be re-sold at face value. As well, people with extra tickets were selling them out in the open, not petrified of arrest like in Beijing or London. Given that, this was, by far, the best managed ticketing program we’ve ever experienced.

https://ingressos.rio2016.com/rio2016.html?affiliate=OGF&doc=search&fun=search&action=filter

As for the venues, the ushers were very relaxed about seat swapping. So if your seat was up in the rafters, and there were empties down close (typically unoccupied sponsor reserved seats), they let people fill in wherever they wanted and only moved you if the rightful seat-holder arrived. Given that, what you were noticing on TV being empty was most likely the upper decks of any venue because people were all filtering down into the better seats.

After London we pleaded, “When will somebody realize that there needs to be an efficient secondary ticketing system in place to re-sell unclaimed or unused tickets?” It seems Rio figured it out pretty well.

https://ingressos.rio2016.com/rio2016.html?affiliate=OGF&language=en&doc=feature/contentDetail&cid=info/returns

Now we ask, “When will an Olympic organizer figure out what we termed “confetti” seats, of all different random colors – making it impossible for television audiences to differentiate between occupied and unoccupied seats?”  Some day.  (see example)

http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/Articles/2016/02/Top-10-New-Additions-at-DAYTONA.aspx

  • Military-like security: While we did see a few soldiers around venue entrances with machine guns, it was far fewer and far less ubiquitous than most other Olympics. We recall Barcelona teaming with camo wearing, gun toting security forces everywhere, even placing tanks right out front, ready to attack any threat to an Olympic venue. We saw very little of this, and only outside of the Equestrian venue, located across the street from a military base, was there an obvious military-like presence.
  • The Brazilian people: We found our hosts to be VERY friendly and accommodating. Their exuberance in the stands was infectious – at times we found ourselves caught up in the moment and rooting for Brazilian athletes along with them. This enthusiasm was however, at times, a bit unsportsmanlike as they tended to boo and jeer opponents almost as heartily as they supported their own. Also, it was surprising to us how few spoke English, but that is our problem – not theirs. How many American’s do you know who speak a second language, let alone Portuguese? Given that, I would have liked to have seen a bit more international symbols on signage for foreign visitors such as ourselves.

Was everything perfect?  No. We saw many opportunities for improvement.

The transit system, while efficient, was labeled by the names of the parts of the city, as opposed to an Olympic venue or sport symbol. So figuring out which stop correlated to which sport venue from the dizzying transit maps, for example, took some concentrated effort. But, we only missed our stop once, so not a terrible foul.

Brazil 1

We found the Olympic Park to be somewhat lacking in excitement or energy. Unlike London which was teaming with street performers (mostly thanks to Coca-Cola), music, sponsor venues, and huge screens showing all the action, Rio’s was simply a large closed in area that contained several sports venues. There were concession carts, a souvenir mega-store, a few sponsor activations, and some directional signage, but not much else. Even locals we attended with were disappointed by the lack of a “festive” atmosphere at Olympic Park.

Brazil 2

We later learned that instead, Rio created Boulevard Olimpico down-town, away from the sports venues. This area featured all of the sponsor activations and festive atmosphere one would expect, aimed primarily at the home market as a way to share the Olympic experience with everyone, regardless of whether they held an event ticket or not.  http://www.boulevard-olimpico.com/?lang=en  This area was jam packed every day, and really acted as the party central / theme-park area for these games. It just wasn’t publicized very well to visitors as we saw no promotions or mentions of it anywhere we visited.

Every Olympic Games we’ve attended has had its own personality. Some overtly commercialized (LA and Atlanta), some romantically quaint (Lake Placid and Lillehammer), some feeling very “designer – high end” (Beijing and London) and some feeling very industrial (Nagano). In the end, each were unique in their own way.

For Brazil we will remember the proud and welcoming people, the immense enthusiasm and energy in the stands, and while their budgets couldn’t match Beijing’s or London’s exorbitant spending, we always got the feeling that these Olympic hosts were giving it their very best to ensure visitors had a great experience in their country.

To the people of Rio, we apologize for Ryan Lochte and the US media. It appears they both have a flair for negativity and dramatic embellishment.

Regardless of what they reported, we know the truth and will most definitely return.

Thank you Rio

Brazil 5

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Nike, Famous Ambusher, Is Redefining the Art of Ambush Marketing

As the world is ramping up for London 2012, savvy marketers everywhere are attempting to find ways to align their brand with the Olympic Games — even though they’re not official sponsors. Ambush marketing is nearly synonymous with the Games, and if any brand is famous for its Olympic ambush schemes, it’s Nike: they’ve perfected the art, from wrapping the 1996 Athens stadium in their “swoosh” to handing out branded merchandise to fans entering Olympic arenas.

But the sportswear brand is doing something completely different for the 2012 Games: instead of attempting to “trick” consumers into thinking Nike is an official sponsor, they’re taking ownership of their non-sponsor status. It’s a first in Olympic ambush marketing… and it’s compelling.

The ad campaign they revealed yesterday pushes a message no ambusher has ever attempted to sell: official doesn’t mean great. You don’t need official equipment to play a great game, you don’t need to be an official Olympic Gold medalist to be a great athlete, and you don’t need to be an official sponsor of the Olympics to be a great brand.

The 60 second ad spot opens with shots of un-famous athletes competing and training in lesser known “Londons” around the world, from Ohio to Nigeria. They’re wincing through sit-ups, throwing perfect pitches, and wrestling their hearts out. During the montage, a (British!) man voices over this message:

“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few, for the superstars. The truth is, greatness is for us all… Greatness is not in one special place, and it’s not in one special person. Greatness is wherever somebody is trying to find it.”

In the end, they promote #FindGreatness, encouraging athletes everywhere to join in on their conversation.

            

Only time will tell if it manages to drown out adiadas’ campaign (they paid a cool $60 million for their official sponsor status of London 2012). In any case, it’s a powerful ad, a powerful message — and a very interesting 180 for Olympic ambush marketing.

Check out the ad for yourself here.

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Is Touting Past Relationships at Opportune Times Ambush Marketing?

The Performance Research team always has sponsorship on the brain — even when we’re shopping for cereal! We recently snapped photos of two cereal brands shelved side by side at our local grocer. The sight immediately caught our “sponsor eye.”

Quick, which of the cereal brands below officially sponsors the Olympic Games?

Image      

If you said Wheaties, you’re forgiven — but mistaken.

With a quick glance, it seems as if both of the cereal giants could be sponsors of the Olympic Games. But look closer. The Kellogg’s box has the iconic Olympic rings logo emblazoned on it, along with language (“official sponsor”) that ties them directly to the Games. The Wheaties box? Not so much.

That’s because Kellogg’s is the official cereal brand of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and their Corn Flakes box is part of a marketing campaign driving home that official sponsorship to consumers. Wheaties, on the other hand, has no current official relationship with the USOC or the Olympic Games.

The re-release of past Wheaties boxes featuring Olympic champions at such an opportune time — leading right up to the 2012 Summer Games — could be considered ambush marketing, a tactic that can be cause for concern for those official sponsors (like Kellogg’s) who spend millions of dollars on officially associating their brand with the Olympics.

It’s a recurring issue. Olympic season after Olympic season, unofficial “supporters” of the Olympics elbow their way into the top of consumers’ minds as bon-a-fide Olympic sponsors by using ambush marketing tactics.

We conducted research during the 1994 and 1996 Games that lent insight into consumers’ perceptions of official Olympic sponsor brands. Often, ambush sponsors outpaced official sponsors (e.g., ambusher Nike vs. official sponsor Reebok) in terms of sponsor recall and belief that these non-Olympic companies were doing more than many official sponsors to support the Olympics.

More recently, we collected data after the 2010 Vancouver Games and found that ambush sponsorship marketing was still alive and well. In particular, Subway, who used Michael Phelps in a campaign leading up to the 2010 Games, was strongly associated with the Olympics that year even though they weren’t officially sponsoring the Games. So was Verizon, who used the U.S. Speed Skating team in ads surrounding Vancouver but had no official partnership in 2010. Full details of that report can be found here.

The topic raises a lot of questions: is spending big bucks on official Olympic sponsorship worth it? Is it ethical to lead consumers to believe your brand is associated with the Games when there is no official sponsor relationship there? We welcome your comments on this one.

Also, a challenge: keep your eyes out for all of the official and not-so-official Olympic campaigns going on this month.  Send us your pics, we’d love to see what you uncover.

Just as we’ve done since the 1992 games, we’re planning to conduct similar research for the 2014 Olympic Games.  As always, don’t hesitate to send us a message or ask us questions if you want to learn more about what we’re up to.

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July 5, 2012 · 10:54 am

Olympic Food and Drink Sponsors: Some Not “Lovin’ It”

Should properties only accept sponsors whose brand images align exactly with their values? Last week, the London Assembly gave their answer: when it comes to the Olympics, absolutely.

At their most recent meeting, the governmental body called for a ban on Olympic “junk food” sponsors — McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, and Heineken were called out specifically — citing concern that food and drink sponsors who produce high calorie or perceived unhealthy food and drink products undermine the values of the Olympic Games, and could contribute to the growing problem of obesity in the UK.

While the London Assembly might have their hearts in the right place, we think they need a super-sized serving of perspective.

First, let’s talk dollars and cents (or pounds and pence). According to a study conducted by official Olympic sponsor Visa, the UK will receive a huge economic stimulus from the Games worth an estimated £5.33 billion — a number that could have been significantly lower without the sponsorship dollars paid by McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, and Heineken, who all contribute to the Olympic Committee’s ability to make the Games a success. The boost the Games and its sponsors contribute to the UK economy far outweigh the possibility that their ties to the Games might persuade Brits to reach for some fries or a soda. We’re surprised that a governmental organization doesn’t get that.

And frankly, we don’t buy that companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, who have received the most flack from critics, don’t exhibit values that align with many Olympic ideals. The notion that McDonald’s is nothing but a coronary-inducing beef patty and french fry slinger is an antiquated one. The global restaurant chain has made serious strides in offering up healthy options on their menu. More nutritious items — grilled chicken, entree salads, fruit sides, and low-fat dairy snacks — have been a big part of McDonald’s ability to succeed in the modern marketplace, and to some extent, may even have been inspired by McDonald’s early days of serving athletes at the Olympic  village. Those options will all be available for sale at the Games.

And Coca-Cola expects that over 75% of the drinks it sells at the Olympic Games will be water (Schweppes Abbey Well Water is a Coca-Cola brand and is the official water of the Games), juice, or sugar-free beverages. Again, the idea that Coca-Cola only produces syrupy fizzy soft drinks is misinformed.

The food service giant and beverage behemoth are also showing that they value the Olympic ideals of athleticism, unity, and excellence with Games-themed initiatives aimed at boosting physical activity. McDonald’s plans on giving away 9 million activity toys with their happy meals during the Olympic Games; Coca-Cola sponsored a “free swim” program in the UK in conjunction with their sponsorship.

And therein lies the real takeaway: McDonald’s and Coca-Cola know that an Olympic sponsorship is the perfect opportunity to drive home the fact that their brands can be part of an athletic lifestyle, and that as corporations they value the spirit of the Olympic games. Sponsorship isn’t always about brands selling the masses more burgers, sneakers, or car insurance.

Bottom line?: we think the London Assembly should leave sponsorship to the experts.

Oh, and London Assembly! It looks like Mayor Johnson agrees with us: Click here to watch a video clip of Boris Johnson inviting Americans to come to London to drink “fizzy drinks.” 

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