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With the start of the games in Rio this week, predictions have begun rolling in—from the number of medals a country will win to whether Rio will prove as successful for brands as the London games in 2012. We have our own prediction to make: print, broadcast, web and social channels will be jam-packed with stories about the people—and the places they represent—in the coming days. Take the 10-person team that will enter the stadium tomorrow night behind the Olympic flag. For the first time ever, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established a Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) to “raise awareness of the magnitude of the refugee crisis.” Members of the team include athletes from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. While they may not leave with medals, it’s probably safe to predict that they will leave a lasting impression about hope and resilience. Want to keep an eye on the coverage? We’ve created the 2016 Olympics Tracker that monitors and analyzes media in near real time. Let’s look at what buzz is building around the games.
Michael Phelps’ star is on the rise once more. The most decorated Olympian of all time—with 18 gold medals—captured the media spotlight leading up to the Rio games because of one word; reporters instantly began speculating when Phelps called this trip to Rio “my potential last Olympics.”
Some of the top names from around the world are getting attention too. Timo Boll, German table tennis star and two-time Olympic medalist, and Andy Murray, Great Britain's defending gold medalist in tennis, both earned big boosts of media mentions for being selected as their countries' respective flag bearers for the Opening Ceremonies. Then there is Kohei Uchimura, gymnast and five-time Olympic medalist from Japan, who received plenty of media attention for the $5,000 data roaming phone bill he racked up trying to play Pokemon Go on the streets of Rio; thankfully his network carrier waived many of the fees so Kohei can turn his attention back to the Rio games.
The Olympics aren’t just about big-name athletes. They’re also about big business. Olympic sponsors pay large sums of money to reach global audiences and get their brand associated with the games. Whose brand name will reach the farthest? Right now, Samsung and Coca-Cola seem to be winning the brand war on traditional media, while Atos and Visa join Coca-Cola and Samsung in the social media battle.
Does the attention equate to positive brand affiliations? It looks like Coca-Cola is seeing many positive media mentions.
Finally, the host countries always face media challenges—whether it’s the accommodations, the air quality or another issue. For Rio, media from around the world have been talking about the Zika virus for months, and it remains a hot topic—especially in the US, Canada, UK and Australia.
As the games continue, the positive will outweigh the negative as fans—at home and in the media—share stories designed to inspire, like those of the ROT. As IOC President Thomas Bach said, “These great athletes will show everyone that, despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, and most important, through the strength of the human spirit.” And that’s a story worth telling.