‘We are not the Olympics’: How the Commonwealth Games is using brand values to step out of the Olympic shadow

The Commonwealth Games is attempting to differentiate itself from the Olympics by appealing to its community-based ‘brand values’, according to Marcus Taylor, head of communications and public affairs at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Corporation.

Marcus Taylor on stage with Mumbrella’s Vivienne Kelly at the Sports Marketing Summit

Speaking at Mumbrella’s Sports Marketing Summit, Taylor described how the Commonwealth Games is drawing on a full suite of community, equality and sustainability-based initiatives for Gold Coast 2018 in order to reposition the brand within the sporting landscape.

Speaking during a session entitled ‘Making the Commonwealth Games Happen’, Taylor said: “We’re talking about an event that’s more than putting on sport and selling tickets, it’s actually about changing the environment and the community around it. That’ll be one of our lasting legacies.”

During his talk, Taylor briefly referenced the Dehli 2010 Commonwealth Games, which “impacted the brand quite significantly”. The 2010 games were marred with PR disasters including an outbreak of dengue fever, a collapsed bridge that injured 23 labourers, and official rooms that were judged ‘unsafe and unfit for human habitation’. According to Taylor, after 2010, there were doubts as to whether the brand could ever fully recover.

For 2018, the Commonwealth Games has implemented several community and equality-based initiatives including a more inclusive para-sports programme, along with a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) intended to deliver tangible benefits for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the communities surrounding the Games. Plus, in a win for gender equality, the 2018 Commonwealth Games will see women will compete for the same amount of medals as men.

“The big thing for us was to actually go out there and say: ‘We are not the Olympics’. We don’t really want to compete with the Olympics. We know where we sit in the sporting landscape and we’ll own that space,” Taylor said.

“That was very much about identifying the quality of medals, participation in the para programmes, things that really make us stand out. Sustainability, the RAP, really meaningful things that actually represent the brand values of the Commonwealth Games. Things that get lost a little bit in the Olympic landscape.

“Finding investment in extending light rail will actually benefit the community in the long run. It’s not a large financial output, I mean, it’s large, but not in comparison [to the Olympics]. People are more willing to absorb it, since $200 million in road upgrades on the Gold Coast goes so much further than $200 million of similar upgrades in a major capital city.”

Taylor also explained how future-proofing Gold Coast 2018’s venues has been a key concern from the offset: “No investment was made into a venue that couldn’t be repurposed or become a multi-purpose venue afterwards. The latest Thor movie was filmed inside a facility that was built for squash.”


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