Caleb Paine wins bronze at the Rio Olympics

Image credit: The Associated Press

After spending a week in Rio to watch my cousin Caleb Paine race for and eventually win a bronze medal in Sailing, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the Olympics firsthand – and obviously from a measurement perspective.

Winner: Rio

The biggest winner was the city of Rio de Janeiro — by setting expectations incredibly low, most Olympic visitors were pleasantly surprised and delighted by what they found here. After months of bad press about the water, Zika, crime, and unpreparedness, the Olympics went just fine.

Rio’s visitors found the people warm and friendly, the food good, and the streets and beaches safe (at least around the Olympic venues). Sure, there were times when one was reminded of the filth that lurked under the surface of Guanabara Bay (e.g. the smell of sewage mingled with the scent of Brazilian barbeque at one of the hospitality houses).  And I know that other dangers probably lurked off the main streets. For example, one taxi driver warned us not to go up the hill near our apartments by pointing at the area and saying “bang bang” (i.e. don’t go there if you don’t want to get shot). Tensions with locals weren’t far beneath the surface; in fact, taxi drivers angry at the influx of Uber drivers called a general strike around the Olympic venues.

Loser: The International Olympic Committee

While everyone agreed Rio was a gorgeous venue, many people questioned the wisdom of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in selecting it. Distance and transportation were huge issues.  It took hours to get to each venue, lines were endless, and security was incredibly annoying. At one venue, they prohibited all water and food, but at another venue, they would let you in with an empty water bottle, but only if you took the label off. This weirdness was quickly explained by the fact that a $1 bottle of water outside cost three times as much inside. My biggest casualty was my Swell water bottle, which they not only wouldn’t let in, but destroyed with sledge hammers since it was obviously some sort of weapon. (Note to Swell, you need to do more brand awareness here.)

Winner: TeamUSA

The diversity of Team USA, and particularly its medal winners went a long way to dispelling some of the fears that the Presidential election has raised about our attitude towards “walls” and people of other faiths.  The beauty of the Olympics is that it shows humanity at its best, especially at the P&G Family Home. It was a very cool thing to see moms and dads of all different backgrounds, faiths, and demographics hanging out and sharing their pride in their children.

Loser: Russia

Not sure if the exclusion of so many Russian athletes decreased the fan base in Rio, but it was almost eerie to watch the Russians play Italy and Cuba in Beach Volleyball. Every time Italy or Cuba scored a point, the crowd went nuts. When the Russians scored there was silence, and I only spotted one Russian fan in the crowd of thousands.

Winner: Sponsors who used the Olympics to tell a great story

Most of Sunbrella’s business does not come from boat owners; nonetheless, they saw an opportunity to become deeply involved with U.S. Sailing because there were so many great stories. (Full disclosure, they sponsored my cousin and he was featured in their video.) They initially were just capturing sailor stories in short film clips, but realized there was a bigger tale to tell so they rolled them up into full-length feature film.  Sunbrella’s Head of Event Marketing, Gina Wicker, said it’s been great for both employees and business.

Procter & Gamble was another winner, sponsoring the P&G Family Home to support and honor the parents and families of U.S. and Canadian athletes. There you could get your laundry done (with Tide of course), dads could go to the man cave to get a shave (with a Gillette razor), and moms could schedule manicures. Plus, the P&G Family House had plenty of packages of Puffs for those emotional moments and pretty much anyone could chow down at any time they were hungry. Since Brazilian Father’s Day fell in the middle of the Olympics, they even brought in the Olympic torch and held a barbecue for the dads.

Losers: Sponsors who forced choices on people

We were told early and often that only Visa cards would be accepted at the Olympics, so I was forced to get a brand new credit card, since my bank only offered MasterCard. The rule did little for Visa’s brand loyalty and mostly pissed people off.

Winners: Unofficial sponsors who did a great job capitalizing on the event

  • Uber: In addition to Uber drivers being never more than 5 minutes away, they were also about half the price of local taxis.  If they didn’t dominate the market before the Olympics, they certainly will now.
  • Manufacturers of DEET Mosquito Repellent: I was one of probably thousands that stocked up on the stuff, never to see a single mosquito.
5/5 (4)
Recent Posts