Whether or not you get into all the hype surrounding the 2012 Summer Olympics now underway in London, unless you’re made of stone, you have to appreciate the stories about triumph and perseverance, and the huge smiles on the faces of these athletes as we the viewers get to witness them fulfilling their lifelong dreams.
These games are not without their share of disappointment, however. It seems that the humility and grace required – but not always exhibited – by athletes who’ve had to concede a win to their worthy opponents are a greater test of true strength than physical prowess alone. How athletes handle their setbacks says a lot about who they are, while providing some good PR lessons as well.
Here are a few examples I’ve seen so far:
- Michael Phelps. We all saw great things from him at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So he had a little stumble since then. Big deal. He’s only human and we all make mistakes. He should be very proud of who he is and where he came from – as well as the great things he’s accomplished – but it seems like he’s come into these Olympics with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. It’s not our fault he trained for nine months while Ryan Lotche trained for four straight years. But that stress, or perhaps lack of preparation, seems to be coming out in interviews. I know he’s got a job to do, and I can only imagine how annoying the press must be, but after the turbulence of his last four years, it seems the easier route would be to show some humility, and along with it, some appreciation that anyone wants to talk to him at all.
- Jordyn Wieber. This tiny powerhouse gymnast is the 2011 World Women’s All-Around Champion, and yet because the Olympic rules dictate only two people from each country with the best individual scores can compete, she was knocked out yesterday. Sure, she’ll still be a part of the team competition, but her dream of going for the individual gold is no more. She was visibly upset – to the point where the press had to wait what seemed like a good 10 minutes before they could talk to her – but she handled it with class, grace and humility. Especially for a kid who’s all of 16 years old. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she’s had some serious media training. And it clearly shows.
- NBC. In TV land, winning the rights to broadcast the Olympics is like winning the gold. The exorbitant amount paid for exclusive rights is easily made back with advertising dollars and other sponsorship deals you and I could only dream of. So while it’s understandable why the network would want to insert commercials into the opening ceremony, it doesn’t make sense why they’d cut away from the opening festivities to an awkward, rather tense interview with Michael Phelps and Ryan Seacrest (see #1 above). Come to find out what they cut and replaced with that strange interview was a tribute to the people who lost their lives in the bombing of the Tube (otherwise known as London’s train system) in July of 2005, shortly after it was announced that London won the opportunity to host the 2012 Olympics. NBC’s producers should have been a bit more sensitive when deciding which cuts to make – and why they were making them – while keeping in mind that no matter how big you are, image does matter.
It’s only been a handful of days since the games began, so there will surely be plenty more stories of success, strife, grief and failure to come. And many more PR lessons to be learned along the way.
What do you think? Have you noticed the examples mentioned above? Do you think marketing professionals should take note?