Olympics And Storytelling: Personal News
By Judith van Bergen and Caroline Schaberg, MSL Netherlands, MSLGROUP EMEA
What makes news? Every PR agency will probably tell you: news is current, close by, continuously changing and it has implications for many (or for those who matter to many people). In London, news is close by, very close by. As is evidenced by Britain’s broadsheet The Sunday Telegraph which cries: ‘Cavendish’s dream left in tatters‘.
Sports requires you to get involved, participate and therefore feels very personal. And so news on the Olympics also becomes personal.
Storytelling For Sports
In their book ‘Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive And Others Die‘ Dan and Chip Heath argue that an idea needs a story to make it stick. We call this storytelling: with a story you make an idea your own because you empathise with it. This is undeniably the case with sports and that is why it is so important to know the story behind the athletes.
There is hardly any other profession for which it matters where a person was born or currently lives. But when the Olympics are over, and the athletes go home, they will be welcomed back and honoured in their places of residence. And friends, neighbours but also compatriots who do not know them personally will be there and feel proud. As if they were the ones competing in London.
And this is also why people are interested in an interview with a family member or friend. We want to know everything about them: where they are from, family background, what they eat, what they do in their spare time, about their youth and all the other details about their lives. And the more we know, the more important they become. We start to feel involved in their lives and feel that their accomplishments are also a little bit ours.
How Brands Leverage Storytelling
Brands use this feeling that we have – this camaraderie and empathy – to their advantage. An athlete is a person we admire, and therefore trust.
Competing in the Olympics assures athletes of sponsorships, which is a necessity for most of them as they hardly have any other means of income. Though the 2012 Olympics are said to be the most social yet, athletes are being denied the chance to promote their personal sponsors on social media. An outrage, according to athletes that live off of these sponsor deals. But is it?
Online research shows that consumers do not accurately know which sponsors support the Olympics. When asked, 37% incorrectly answered that Nike was a sponsor, while 24% correctly picked Adidas. Nike is a sponsor of some athletes, while Adidas sponsors the games themselves. If anything, this research shows that IOC is right in trying to protect their sponsors with both the notorious rule #40 against ‘ambush marketing’ as well as with the strict social media guidelines for athletes. You can read the PDF of Social Media Blogging and Internet Guidelines for London2012 here.
How Brand Can Make It More Personal
Brands support and ‘financially’ help develop sportsmen to Olympic heights. They bring more visibility and engagement to the games, making the athletes’ stories stand out.
One conclusion we can draw from all of this, from a story telling perspective is: it would be much more lucrative for brands to make the Olympics more appealing to viewers. They can do this by highlighting the best moments, bringing into the spotlight people and stories that would go unheard, rooting for the underdog, showcasing the games with visual storytelling, and celebrating the winners with fans and supporters – in their language, in their words, online and offline. Because this is news that is close by, it’s so much more personal, it’s the story we want to hear.