Olympic Gold: Lessons from the 2012 London Olympic Games

MH3 —  August 23, 2012

I didn’t plan to blog three times about my London experience. Sorry if you have heard enough! Hopefully, third time is the charm?

But the more times I have recounted my holiday to people the more I realize what a wonderful professional experience the Games were. I cannot exaggerate what a magnificent demonstration of event management they were to behold. In fact, event management is not a lofty enough title. This was brand management. This was client fulfillment. This was satisfying your customer. This was delivering on your value proposition. This was brand experience personified.

Hyperbole overload, I am sorry. But it’s true.

So here are my personal Olympic Gold Consumer Engagement (OMG, ANOTHER marketing expression) lessons from the 2012 London Olympic Games that left an indelible impression on me:

  1. If you are going to create something to be helpful… make it helpful. Have you ever tried to figure out a “You Are Here” sign in a mall or an office building? London erected millions of them around the city to help tourists sort out directions to attractions, transit, you name it. They were flawless. The signs were aligned to the same direction you were looking, they showed you how long it would take to walk there, they highlighted the places you were most apt to ask for. Someone who had actually been a tourist before freaking designed these things.
  2. If you are going to do something online, make it helpful. The Journey Planner feature on the Olympic website was superb. You could get directions and travel tips from one venue to the next, from one tube station to the next, from a tube station to a venue, from a venue to a tube station, from my aunt Susie’s house to Buckingham Palace. I became addicted to this sucker and it saved my bacon and my eggs many, many times.
  3. Hire the army as your event security. I’m a scaredy cat. I think every plane I fly on will crash, every hotel room I enter has a bad man under the bed, every dark alley harbours a druggie, every person behind me on the subway wants to push me in front of the train. So I loved the friendly, smiling army personnel at every security checkpoint at every venue of the Games. Yes, it was the result of an accident and yes it made the Games feel like a military state, but boy did it raise my comfort. No more plastic jacketed security staff for me. I am calling in the Marines. If I can’t get the Marines I am going to think long and hard about who guards my event borders, how they are dressed, and how they are presented.
  4. Be funny. In Vancouver the volunteers were amazing. Helpful. Knowledgeable. Accessible. In London, they were FUNNY. If you walked by in your Red & White they started out with a charming “Hello Canada.” If you didn’t respond enthusiastically enough, you were greeted with a gentle prod…”I said HELLO CANADA!” If you didn’t react, click your heels and make the most of your second chance, out came the barb… it may have been over a loss in an event, it may be a challenge to wake up, it may be an accented mention of a distant relative. But it was funny. Everywhere you went there were funny volunteers, signing, joking, heckling, making stuff up. It was like a WestJet staff party. So next time I hire some front line staff, I think a test of their quippiness is in order. Funny disarms. Funny charms. Funny tickles our funny bones. Our wallets will follow.
  5. Be charming. One day at track & field, the in-event host was interviewing two British rowers during a break in the competition. Sort of a TV interview live as part of our event. This was just one of the millions of touches the organizers built into the games. But on this particular day it was one of the athletes’ birthdays and at the request of the interviewer we all sang him Happy Birthday. 80,000 people. Together. On cue. In English. Chilling, not just charming.
  6. Steal good ideas. Remember the Painted Moose fad? I have no clue where it started, but in Toronto we had dozens, maybe hundreds of Moose appearing at fundraisers all over the city. Many of them were fundraisers, some of them are still “alive.” The London organizers did the same idea with their mascot
    Wenlock. All over the place were variations of Wenlock, Big Ben Wenlock for example was across from… you go it, the big clock! Apparently there were 70 or 80 of these things painted up. Stolen idea? Yes. Great idea? Yes! The mascots became hunted by tourists who wanted to race around the city and have their picture taken with them at the most unsuspecting locations. One in front of a church I particularly loved. Like all Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville were largely panned when announced to the world. By stealing an oldie but a goodie from the idea jar, the organizers made them charming and LOVED!
  7. Last tip? Win. Win races. Win games. Win medals. Just WIN, baby! Funny how WINNING helps generate good vibes, favourable press, sunnier skies, tastier beers, saltier chips… Much like in Vancouver, when the Home GB Team started to turn the tide on the playing surface, the tide also turned in the court of public opinion!

One response to Olympic Gold: Lessons from the 2012 London Olympic Games

  1. Great article! Great ideas! Great inspiration.

    Thanks Mark