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The Olympic Games: A Better Brand than Coke?

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I went to the 1996 Atlanta Games with my young sons. It was a wonderful experience, but I came away convinced that the games were essentially the ultimate brand.

It starts with an athletic contest so infrequent that its awards are coveted and honored by athletes beyond all reason. Olympic medalists not only have to be the best in the world, they also need to be damn lucky to win a medal. And coveted? Remember the NBA millionaires who are giving it up here for a shot at the gold.

A brand is a shortcut; a symbol that carries an understood message. What is the brand message the Olympic Games convey? Youth, beauty, the fellowship of athletes, sportsmanship, fair play, and the brotherhood of all nations. Some enviable set of messages, that! Any other product would be happy with just one of these. Not only that, all these world class TV commercials are celebrating and reinforcing the Olympic brand message; carrying the water while they pay the freight.

So what if it’s really a huge business run by wealthy dilettantes and moronic bureaucrats? So what if “believing” in the Olympics is like believing that Major League Baseball is still just baseball? Of course we know it isn’t, but every so often it sure seems like it is. Once every 4 years it seems like the Olympic Games are worth it all, too.

I plan to enjoy them.

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