Olympic Branding? What’s the Point

20 05 2010

Could we expect anything less from the country that brought us Poobah and Teletubbies?

Is this what Olympic branding has come down to? And what does it say that the mascots are “created” by someone who builds them out back in an old shed and who come to life by the power of magical rainbows, and who are good at copying everything they see?

Joking aside about the 2012 London Games Mascots…can we take a step back and ask ourselves: Why? Why mascots? ┬áThere have been very few good mascots in the history of sports. And by my count, most of them have gotten their praise by what they do rather than what they look like or their mystical background (i.e. an old man who retires, builds grandkids some tinker toys, and add in a rainbow and voila, the London Games mascots are born!). Take the San Diego Chicken for example:

Or the Phoenix Suns Gorilla

But outside of a select few entertaining mascots, most are questionable at best. What’s their purpose? Good mascots take attention AWAY from the game. For some sporting events, that’s good. If you’re a Houston Astros fan or a Los Angeles Clippers afficionado you’ve got to have entertainment somehow, right? But for good sporting events, what’s the point? Sure, marketers will say: It’s for branding. Good recognizable images are memorable, and memorable = good branding = good marketing.

But I have to raise the question: Why do we need to brand every Olympic games? Branding just for branding’s sake isn’t a strategy. And don’t we have the rings already anyway? The branding has been done, and frankly, I can’t imagine that any spectacular mascot is going to improve what’s already recognized as one of the most visible sporting events in the world. I mean: do we ever see anything similar in other world events? The World Cup every four years has no mascot that I know of. The worldwide economic summit in Geneva? Nope. (Though, who says economics couldn’t use a little extra fun in them?).

For once, I’d like to see a team (or Olympic Host country) just say “no” to mascots. Otherwise, it’s an ongoing joke we keep renewing every four years.