The Olympics: Personal Branding of Athletes

Casey BartoAs the first full week of coverage of the 2012 Olympics comes to a close, there’s been plenty to talk (or complain) about when it comes to reporting on the games. You’ve got the whole NBC tape delay (spoiling its primetime own broadcasts thing) and how social media impacts the games, Twitter’s suspension of Guy Adams for his NBC criticism, and of course, the social post of the athletes getting them into hot water.

Social media’s impact on the public relations – or public persona – of Olympic athletes has never been more obvious.

From a personal branding perspective, athletes who nab medals or have particularly compelling stories can make excellent brand spokespeople while the nation is caught up in Olympic fever. The world is watching them. But unlike Olympics past, athletes today have Twitter accounts. The spotlight of the games shifts them from “teenagers late for practice” to public figures representing their nations. While many tweets are simply observations of their day-to-day and world around them, some athletes have taken to their accounts to express their anger, or just make a bad joke. So, how can this affect their personal brand (they may not even be aware they have one), and would you as a marketer still consider them as the face of your product?

Consider Greek athlete Voula Papachristou who was famously booted from Greece’s Olympic team after she made a racist joke on Twitter. She later apologized, but continued to express her frustration with the events through interviews.

Another athlete whose Olympic journey was cut short is Switzerland’s Michel Morganella. He was suspended from the rest of the games after he tweeted a racist comment after his team lost to South Korea.

And then you have Team USA’s Hope Solo who took to Twitter to criticize an NBC analyst’s commentary of soccer matches.

If you were a brand considering or working with the above athletes for a sponsorship, would you continue your relationship or would you step away?

Additionally, if you’re interested in some stellar Olympic Games marketing campaigns, check out this post from Hubspot.

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