Howcroft: Beautiful athletes and lack of brand hoardings makes Olympics spectacular

Great casting and a lack of intrusive branding at the sports venues makes the Olympics more of a visual feast than other sports, argues Russel Howcroft.

Casting….it’s pretty important in the television game, which is why it was interesting to read a tweet by Virginia Trioli regarding how good looking Winter Olympians are. They do make for some very attractive television.

Russian women's curling captain Anna Sidorova has been promoting the sport

Russian women’s curling captain Anna Sidorova in promotional shots before the Games

One night recently we found ourselves transfixed by the women’s curling. Yes, the curling. Wiki gave us the details on the game’s intricacies, which helped, but it was the casting which had us all engaged, in particular, the Russian curling team.

We wondered if casting played a role in team selection. After all, the Olympics are about television and it was the casting which kept us in engaged in a game where you slide rocks down an icy track. If this was the case, it was smart, as two hours later we were all experts and thoroughly enjoying the skills and tactics employed. I am booking a game of curling at the Icehouse in Melbourne when we return.

At Sochi we have seen a number of events, everything from downhill, to slopestyle, to short course ice racing. They are exciting to see and, on occasion, the atmosphere is charged and passionate. But I do think the Winter Games are a super television event. The production values are superior, with the lighting of the evening program, for example, making the vision all the more spectacular.

The lack of perimeter signage and overt sponsor presence (like the NFL does in their competition) makes for a wonderfully clean look and it allows the organisers, due to the removal of on-site sponsor livery, to art direct the stage for each of the events. (Doesn’t the Super Bowl look beautiful every year?)

There are no sponsor hoardings at Olympic sites

There are no sponsor hoardings at Olympic sites

A simple orange for skiing, blue for skating, purple for biathlon, and so on. These simple design elements, on the white background of the Sochi snow, made for beautiful television shots. And this is great for the global broadcasters as it only enhances the value of the advertising within program, this being the only way to expose your brand.

We have all heard stories about how manic the IOC are about sponsors branding their involvement, guerrilla marketing and the sacrosanct nature of the Olympic brand. Having seen first hand how they do it, it is an incredible example of power branding and the maintenance of that power via keeping the door shut and having the balls to simply say “No”.

Russel Howcroft is executive general manager for Winter Olympic broadcaster Network Ten


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