23 - 08 - 16

A History Of Branding & Signage At The Olympic Games

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio has been a truly record-breaking occasion for Team GB - their best medal haul in 108 years, second overall in the Olympic table, the only host nation to ever win more medals at the next Olympics, and tremendous individual success for many of our top athletes.

Ever since the first event back in 1896, branding has always played an important role in how the Olympic Games is marketed. In this article we will look at some notable branding highlights from the history of the Olympic Games.

Athens 1896

The first Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece in 1896, bringing together 14 nations and 241 athletes who competed in 43 events. A number of local companies, businesses and even the general public contributed revenue towards advertising for the first time, which led to the development and publication of the first-ever Olympic poster (as above). Other marketing materials, such as postage stamps, were also created.

Antwerp 1920

The official Olympic Games programme distributed throughout the Games in Antwerp in 1920 was the first time the literature was filled with a large amount of corporate advertising.

Paris 1924

Paris in 1924 was the first and only Olympic Games in history to allow advertising signage to appear within view of the official venues. Despite this innovation, the cost of the games reached an estimated 10 million francs, and despite crowds that reached up to 60,000 at a time, resulted in a massive financial loss for France.

Amsterdam 1928

1928 saw the beginnings of Coca-Cola's long-running partnership with the Olympic Games. The official programme was now full of corporate advertising, and the IOC ruled that advertising signage must not appear within the stadium grounds.

Berlin 1936

Notable for many reasons, Berlin 1936 was the first Olympic Games that was broadcast on television, albeit only on closed-circuit screens located around the stadium.

Helsinki 1952

Helsinki 1952 was the first Olympic Games to launch an international marketing programme, with companies from 11 counties providing contributory goods and services, including food for athletes and flowers for medallists. This was also the first Olympics to be broadcast internationally on television, albeit for just 28 minutes.

Tokyo 1964

Some 250 companies had forged marketing partnerships with the Olympic Games by Tokyo in 1964. Tobacco sponsorship generated more than one million dollars through its “Olympia” cigarette brand.

Munich 1972

For the first time a private advertising agency acted as a licensing agent for the Games, and rights to use the official emblem were sold. The first official mascot of the Olympics, Waldi, was born and his image usage was licensed to companies worldwide.

Los Angeles 1984

Los Angeles 1984 was the beginnings of the Olympic Games as a marketing giant and corporate vessel, with none other than McDonald's outbidding rival Burger King to win top billing as the "official burger" of the Games (and getting to name a stadium in the process). A McDonald's campaign that gave away free food whenever the U.S. won a medal proved tremendously successful - and costly - to the sponsor.

London 2012

London 2012 reached a global audience of 3.6 billion people - the highest in Olympic history - and with seven domestic partners, eleven global partners, seven official supporters and 28 official suppliers, the London 2012 marketing programme was highly successful. Delivered by Minale Tattersfield, the "magenta trail" became an important part of the London 2012 temporary wayfinding and signage strategy.

Rio 2016

And finally to Rio 2016, which was a veritable smorgasbord of branding, signage and merchandise. Official partners and sponsors included Coca-Cola, Samsung, McDonald's, Visa and Atos, and a few examples can be seen below.