Let’s face it. The main reason countries around the world are so desperate to host the summer or winter olympics is what it can do for their brand.
The event is a massive opportunity to showcase their brand’s features and benefits to the rest of the world.
Some countries might use the olympics to position their brand as an amazing country with beauty and attractions unrivalled anywhere in the world. I think Vancouver did this successfully at the last winter olympics four years ago.
Others have used it to demonstrate to the world that their brand is bigger & more capable than they might have otherwise thought. In other words, to punch above their weight. Of course , I’m referring to the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
And some countries might use the Olympics to reposition their brand from one that is old fashioned and behind the pace to one that has transformed into a modern and innovative brand.
This is no doubt what Russia is trying to achieve with the Sochi winter olympics. It is a massive opportunity for the Russians to shift our perceptions to their brand being open, progressive and forward looking.
This is Putin’s big opportunity to showcase the ‘new’ Russia. To show the world how far Russia has come in the past few decades.
Unfortunately what we’ve already witnessed, before the games have even started, is exactly the opposite.
Back in 2007 Russia announced it would spend 12 billion dollars on the Games. The figure is now looking more like fifty billion. (Note: Vancouver spent $7b by the way). And from what I’ve read much of this 50 billion dollars of taxpayers money has been distributed to business people and companies close to Putin. In other words, corruption and cronyism. Not a good look.
And the PR disaster around Putin’s stance on homosexuality is building momentum. See the below video which is rapidly spreading around the world. It’s currently sitting at 2.2m views. But a word of warning. It is an awful thing to watch.
Even Google has got in on the act with it’s current home page and reference to the olympic charter about mutual understanding and discrimination.
And censorship of the media is going to test the Russian’s capacity to allow a free and open coverage of the games.
Plus, we’ve continued to see news story after news story about the failure of the Russians to deliver the Olympic facilities on time.
All in all a disaster for brand Russia.
Let’s now hope and pray that the event happens without any terrorism which of course would be tragic but would also destroy Putin’s ambition to reposition his brand in the eyes of the world.
The question that remains is will the success of the games rebuild enough positive equity into the brand to have any of us seriously considering a ski trip to Sochi in the future?
I wonder if you would buy brand Russia?
Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM