Honor thy shot putter

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The Olympics isn't the time for brands to be "funny" or "creative," it is the time to tell the truth, writes the co-founder of Opperman Weiss

"There is something in the Olympics, indefinable, springing from the soul, that must be preserved." —Chris Brasher (Gold Medalist 1956, Journalist, UK)

When we choose to appropriate the values and accomplishments of our Olympic athletes, we’ve got to ask ourselves…can we do it with the same level of integrity with which they compete?

To begin with, you have to accept that using Olympic athletes during the Olympics—when so many brands advertising on the Olympics will also be using athletes, only to interrupt programming of Olympic athletes performing Olympic athletics—is already a bit of a conundrum.

Plus, too many brands sponsor the Olympics, and the athletes, for the sheer purpose of borrowing greatness.

They place the five rings next to their logo. They say "Proud Sponsor." And that’s what they are. They pay money. They rent the moment. And if they’ve made their calculations right, they get to rent a medal or two while they’re at it.

Some brands sponsor an athlete purely for his or her fame. Not based on mutual belief and values, but rather on their social media cred. Their likelihood to medal.  More PR. More rented greatness. More rented fans.

The brands that do it right…the athletes they work with? They actually sponsor each other. They’re partners. They share a belief. And they’re proud to mutually propagate that belief. And we, as fans, respect the authenticity of the partnership tenfold.

And it works.

Under Armour believes that if you "Will What You Want" you will achieve. So they make the apparel and equipment that help you in that quest. And their sponsored athletes live that belief every day of their lives. Everyone told Phelps he’s too old. But his will drives him beyond the noise.

And it works.

P&G believes that the success of their athletes on the field today, was sown when they were born, and nourished throughout their lives—by their mothers. That’s why every product they make is dedicated to that woman. So when P&G sponsors the Olympics and says "Thank You Mom," gymnast Simone Biles, having lived it, believes it.

And it works.

Our client Chobani believes "You can only be great if you’re full of goodness." That you have to eradicate all bad from your life. From your body. And from your soul. That’s why they make their yogurt the way they do.  And that’s why someone like paratriathlete Melissa Stockwell, who lost her left leg in Iraq serving in the U.S. Army, chooses to be with them.

And it works.

The Olympics is a place of truth, somehow still devoid of hatred and filled with honor. It’s a moment for great brands to rise. To share the glory the athletes give to the world that is watching. And, above all, for us to act with the same integrity that we ask of them.

So, if we’re going to go ahead and align our brands with Olympic athletes, we must accept the challenge, and the responsibility.

We shouldn’t do it simply to rent fame and glory. And we shouldn’t do it for the 20 million "hits."

We should partner with athletes who embrace the same ethos, the same moral codes and humanness we do.

And if your brand does not truthfully share the ethos of the Olympics, or of the athletes you choose to sponsor, then you should stay the hell home.

This is a moment for creative people to put aside "clever" or "funny" or "creative." It’s that time when the times demand we simply tell the truth.

Beautifully. Memorably. Entertainingly. Deeply. In a way that inspires.  The same way our athletes do. Real. True.

It’s the toughest thing we’ll ever do. But then, the worthy stuff usually is.

It’s like the great longboarder Jose Angel once said, "Everybody wants to go to heaven…but nobody wants to die."


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