Rival and the Olympics

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I love the Olympics. I love them for the stories of triumph and competition and for demonstrating the work ethic that olympic athletes have that make them so competitive. This past Summer's Olympic games was being televised at the same time that Rival Brands was being created. It seemed that each night that I watched the games, I kept witnessing parallels between athletes and brands. 

One parallel that became evident pretty quickly was that like strong brands, athletes have a story. The stories commonly start with a spark of interest that turns into a passion and ultimately develops into a strategy to become the best. As they mature, both athletes and brands assess the competition, recognize what their abilities are, create a set of goals, and then strategize how to reach those goals. Some athletes, like brands, acknowledge that they aren't podium bound. As long as that reality dovetails with their goals, that's okay. "I am happy just to be here competing." On the other hand, some athletes will accept nothing less than optimal performance and will work hard at becoming the competitor they want to be. When they reach the podium, they want to stay there. They realize that remaining at the top will require hard work, focus, and a constant and inward drive to evolve and change as their competitive environment does.

Another parallel is that not all athletes or brands remain guided by the focus and drive that made them great competitors. They get distracted or act in ways that don't reinforce their "position" and they lose sight of their goals. Hopefully, they go back to their core values and find resolution by creating new paths to success that align with their goals. The journey may be long, they may lose some fans, but they make it back to center and forge ahead to compete again.

The parallels kept coming all during the two weeks of the olympics. Each time an athlete was highlighted, I'd slip into branding mode and assess brand position that unfolded with each story. And the point isn't lost on me that some athletes ARE brands with endorsements and products and insanely high expectations about their performance. But the trait that resonated the most for me was the focus and drive that these athletes had for being successful, as they defined it, and sticking to that story.