With an ever-changing sporting landscape, the Olympic movement has faced a growing challenge of maintaining relevance with its values for a new generation of sport fans. Group Account Director Andrew Boyers, takes a look at how we used our work for the International Olympics Committee to bring the games to life on social.
When Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi stepped into the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo this summer, both had ambitions of winning gold. But neither would have expected to become one of the stories of not just the Tokyo Games, but the entire Olympic movement.
The moment Barshim and Tamberi agreed to share the Olympic High Jump Gold in Tokyo – the first joint Gold in 109 years – it was rightly held up as a fine example of sportsmanship for which the Olympics has become synonymous.
It’s true that the Olympic Games exemplifies the pinnacle of sport; not just in performance, but also in mentality. Being an Olympian carries weight; it’s an honour and a privilege, and Olympians are expected to display the values of excellence, friendship and respect as they compete.
While those values have remained for over a century, the world in which they’re upheld has changed immeasurably.
The sporting landscape has transformed: viewing habits have diversified across platforms, attention spans are dwindling and sports stars now transcended the sports fields into popular culture. In this context the Olympic movement has faced a growing challenge of maintaining relevance with its values for a new generation of sport fans.
In our work with the International Olympics Committee, we sought to answer this challenge, by exploring culture through the lens of semiotic analysis. Semiotics is the study of symbolism and signs and their unconscious meaning; an easy example would be how we’ve come to know the colour red instinctively to mean danger.
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Taking this approach allowed us to unpack the three Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect, and understand what they have come to represent in culture historically, in the present day, and the future.
Through this analysis we were able to arrive at a series of codes, or meanings, within each value, that demonstrated how they could manifest in their innate meaning and in their expression, for a new generation of sports fans.
As an example: the historic view of excellence was that it was something bestowed, or inherited upon people. Yet in today’s modern world, that view of excellence is outdated. Now, excellence among sports stars is demonstrated in part through a passion to change the world (see Simon Biles, Naomi Osaka, Lewis Hamilton) – even if it means pushing against the institutions they are a part of.
Taking these new insights on board, our content brought the new reflections of the Olympic values to life. Executions that reflected the Olympic values through the inspirational messages inspired by athletes, showing how Olympians had been on a journey to the Games from childhood; ‘Art of An Olympian’, that brought to life the stories of refugee athletes through artist collaborations; or ‘More than Medals’: stories of athletes that had gone above and beyond. All delivered with a brand new design look and feel that brought a fresh and dynamic perspective to the Olympics channels.
In building the strategic foundations rooted in cultural insight, we were able to establish a comprehensive content platform for the Olympics that allowed us to tell stories in a credible way across social. Truly modernising one of the most prestigious sporting icons in the world for a new generation, helping the flame to live on for years to come.