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What the Olympics Teach Us About Branding

Walk through any sporting goods store right now and you are sure to find swarms of “Team USA” gear on the racks. The Olympic Games - whether summer or winter - bring a sense of national pride. But what does patriotism have to do with branding? I’m glad you asked. Patriotism is branding incarnate.


Olympic Team USA Closing Ceremony Uniform Like pride in one’s country, brands tend to evoke emotional responses. This year, the United States Olympic Committee teamed up with Polo Ralph Lauren to develop the 2018 Team USA uniforms. “At Ralph Lauren, we’re always trying to celebrate the American spirit …” the six-time official outfitter of Team USA told InStyle. The look features the American flag on the arms, legs, and even at the heart of a heating pad inside the jackets. These Olympians are fashionably decked head to toe in their country’s colors – and you better believe it evokes some powerful emotions.

Similarly, Under Armour’s simple logo of the layered letters U and A represents their powerful athletic wear, worn by gold-metal athletes like Michael Phelps and Lindsey Vonn. When customers put on Under Armour’s clothing – they too feel strong, powerful, and ready to kill it at the gym. Branding is important because it is a visual representation of the company itself - an extension of the company’s story, vision, and mission. 

When you look at your brand – what do you feel? What do your customers feel? Take a lesson from Team USA, and hopefully one of the first words that comes to mind is, “pride.”


Team USA LogoDuring the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, the underdog USA hockey team took on the five-time gold medal winning Soviet Union. Their game - now referred to as the “Miracle on Ice”- ended in a 4-3 win for Team USA. Not only did USA beat an arguably superior team, but we were also in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Talk about a compelling story! This kind of pride goes way deeper than the kind felt from wearing a fashionable uniform.

Your company’s story needs to be just as compelling. This may seem difficult to accomplish, but if you look close enough – all the elements of a compelling story are right in front of you: 

  • Your company started from somewhere... 
  • Your CEO overcame some obstacle to get to where he/she is now...  
  • Your employees are treated as partners rather than expendable assets...  
  • Your company gives back to the community through time and donations... 

Whatever storytelling elements you discover, find a way to share them with others. This is what helps clients connect with your company on a deeper level.  

People want to feel as if they are part of a larger story - something that is bigger than themselves - and that’s what Team USA represents every time they compete. 


Finally, and most importantly, your company’s brand must be truthful. You must be able to live up to the claims you boast and the promises you make to your customers.Pyeongchang Logo 2018 Olympics

The United States Olympic Committee follows something called the Olympic Creed: 

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

What? No promise of bringing home the gold or shattering world records? Nope. The aim of all Olympic athletes is merely to have “fought well.”  And isn’t that something we all can admire and respect?

The same principle rings true for brands and companies. At HighRock, a simple phrase you’ll often hear us use around this office is, “Make it better.” Whether we’re talking about a project, a process, or even ourselves – this phrase serves as a reminder that nothing is so sacred that it can’t be made better. It’s simple and it’s a promise we can keep.

Ask yourself, what does our brand promise to customers? And can we keep that promise?  

If your brand can evoke emotion, tell a compelling story, and stay true to its promises ... in our book, that’s a gold medal win every … single … time.