August 21, 2012
Lessons from the Quiet Brand at the Olympics
I recently spent a week immersed in London, and the London Olympics. I watched, in person, the Williams sisters win Gold in Tennis for the U.S., Andy Murray dominate Roger Federer for a Gold medal in Men’s Tennis, Jason Kenny win a Gold for Team Great Britain (or “Team GB” as I heard chanted all week) at the Velodrome, David Lekuta Rudisha break the world record in the Men’s 800 meter, and Usain Bolt handily win the 200 Meter Gold Medal.
I also studied the “on the ground” efforts of the many brands – 53 in total – who had a presence at the 2012 Olympics. Of course the most ubiquitous were the so-called TOP sponsors, who paid the most. Brands like McDonald’s, Visa, Coca-Cola, and Samsung. I especially liked the Visa people stationed around Olympic Park with tall Visa-branded poles, simply there to help people and answer questions. It was a nice touch of generosity from Visa.
But one brand stood out for me for its quiet effectiveness at the Olympics. It was Oakley, the high-performance athletic brand that excels in eyewear.
Full disclosure – I do some consulting work for Oakley’s parent company, Luxottica in Milan. Through this relationship I have gotten to know Scott Bowers, SVP Global Marketing and Brand Development at Oakley. Scott invited me to experience the Oakley Safehouse in London, housed in the London Design Museum, which they basically took over for a month. The concept behind the Safehouse is to give athletes and their families a place to relax away from the craze of Olympic Park. They serve three meals a day, provide entertainment at night, celebrate each medal of each visiting athlete with an Oakley ceremony, and basically chat with the athletes all week.
Here is what every brand builder can learn from what Oakley does at the Olympics (they have been creating Safehouses since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996):
— Build personal relationships with people that really matter for your brand. Over two weeks, Oakley builds strong, authentic relationships with hundreds of the world’s best athletes. They send about 40 of their own people to create and run the Safehouse – they don’t outsource it to an events agency. They do it themselves because they see their core work as building relationships.
— Integrate your product or service, and its uniqueness, into everything you do (if you have nothing unique about your product or service, well that’s for another blog). Oakley has a giant “lab” central in the Safehouse, where they talk about product with the athletes, and make special customized products for each athlete. They have nearly 70,000 parts on site to make just about anything for any sport. Every piece of eyewear they make is a live demo to a thought leader of their superior design and performance.
— Learn all the time. Oakley, while building relationships and making products at a major global event, is also doing consumer research 24/7 at the Olympics, an unparalleled gathering of athletes of the world. That is one reason Oakley brings its own staff to the event for weeks. They will regroup after an exhausting and exhilarating month and share learning, and implications.
— Make a bold and creative statement about who you are. Oakley collaborated with the London Design Museum, which housed the Safehouse, to organize a special exhibition in the museum about cutting edge technology and sport, called Designed to Win. Oakley’s brand ideal is to ignite the imagination through the fusion of art and science, and they stand for no compromises in design and performance. So in a beautiful exhibition open to the public, Oakley celebrates the history of design, excellence, and technology in athletics.
And, by the way, the exhibit will be open the balance of the summer. I recommend you take it in if touring London.