Olympics 2012: PR Winners, Losers and Hmm…Not Sure

  • August 24, 2012
  • Candice Eng

Who is still experiencing Olympics withdrawal? Symptoms include…

– Your DVR is at a loss for what to record for the next 1022.5 hours.
– You need Bob Costas to tell you an inspiring human-interest story.
– When looking at your VISA credit card, you hear Morgan Freeman’s voice

To alleviate some of the post-Olympics funk until Rio 2016, let’s recount some of the good, bad and “iffy” PR moments from London.


Laugh at yourself. U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney was #notimpressed with her vault performance but embraced the facial reaction that made her a viral and meme sensation. She even poked fun of herself in her own tweet.



The British image. The country promoted their history, arts and culture – letting the world remember and celebrate the country’s contributions. The Royal Family was personable and good-humored, with the Queen “parachuting” into the opening ceremonies.

Personal relations are best. Though it was dubbed the “Social Media Olympics,” one of the greatest triumphs of these games came from the 70,000-plus volunteers who cheerfully greeted and helped athletes and attendees. When developing PR strategies, it’s easy to put media/social media first but human contact is still a key in relationship building.


Overprotected. The Olympic brand is incredibly powerful and official sponsors pay out the wahzoo to use it. Yet totalitarian exclusion of other non-official brands brought PR backlash, because in today’s world of Internet, social media and public sharing – can you really control it?

– While Adidas paid $60 million for their official brand status, Nike’s Find your Greatness YouTube ad never mentioned the Olympics but the emotional and subliminal links were there – and probably more memorable because of it.

Not learning from the past, not planning ahead. PR has moved from just publicity and hype-building to risk management. Several issues were handled with controversy, including the Olympic flame and empty venue seats.

– Complaints over inaccessibility to the flame were déjà vu for London after lovely barb wiring obscured the flame at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

– When an event is on TV, you don’t want empty seats. Ticketing arrangements and non-attendance were criticized, as seats that could’ve been filled with enthusiastic fans and athletes’ families were held by corporate and IOC VIPS.

Hmm … It’s Iffy

“Jeah”, Ryan Lochte. Where to begin. Yes, he is a household name, cute and a world-record, gold medal-winning swimmer. Then, there are the grills, flashy shoes and sunglasses, a possible appearance as the next Bachelor, and an attempt to trademark a catchphrase (or catchword) that he has trouble explaining. I’m all for athletes having personality, but how much is too much, and what is the brand image you want?



NBC. Sports fans want to watch live competition and with easy access via social media and live streaming, NBC received lots of grumbles for tape delaying, including a blackout on the Opening Ceremonies – but NBC paid $1.18 billion in rights fees and it made sense to save the big advertising draws of top events for primetime. Did NBC really lose? With more than 219 million viewers, the 2012 Olympics were the most watched event in U.S. television history.

The Social Games. Social Media continues to be a much-debated topic with sports and athletes. Twitter saw over 150 million tweets during the games: Usain Bolt commanded the highest number of tweets per minute with 80,000 and Gabby Douglas increased her fan base by 3960%.  The channels offer a venue for personality and direct connections, but can be problematic. Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou’s insensitive tweets got her removed from the Olympics, and there was Twitter tension between U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo and former player/current commentator Brandi Chastain.

Now it’s your turn – What were your PR, brand, communications and overall winning, losing and iffy moments of the 2012 Olympics?


3 responses to “Olympics 2012: PR Winners, Losers and Hmm…Not Sure”

  1. Adam Henry says:

    The “Find Your Greatness” commercials were so much more memorable, I would have guessed Nike was the official sponsor. Win for them indeed.

  2. Helen says:

    I love this post Candice. I didn’t know that Adidas was an official Olympic sponsor. Nike definitely stole their thunder. Ryan Lochte’s brand image is a bit too much for me. It seems he he may have limited himself on sponsorship and endorsement opportunities with his “jeah” catch phrase and general cockiness. Can you see Ryan Lochte ever doing a high-end brand like Louis Vuitton? I can’t.

    I too miss Bob Costas’ human-interest stories.

    • Candice Eng says:

      Not LV, maybe Ed Hardy? 🙂 Oh Ryan, is he’s turning into the Terrell Owens of Swimming…

      I miss the Olympics… How am I going to make it through four years?!

Other good stuff in here