Thursday, July 29, 2021

What’s in a Name – Especially During the Olympics?

When last year’s Olympic Games were rescheduled for 2021 due to the Covid pandemic, did you take notice? If yes, did you watch last week’s Opening Ceremony that took place in Tokyo, Japan? Did anything stand out as odd?

First, while the Olympics are taking place in 2021, they continue to be referred to as the “2020 Olympics.” That’s a marketing nightmare!

Second, to protect fans from the covid virus, no fans were allowed to attend events and could not sit in the stands. While this is a decision that keeps fans safe, the athletes’ health is still at risk!

Third, and without a doubt, the oddest fact was that, even though Russia was barred from participating in the Olympics due to doping scandals, there are more than 300 Russian athletes competing in Tokyo. These Russian athletes participated in the Opening Ceremony’s parade of nations under the banner of R.O.C., which is the acronym for the Russian Olympic Committee. Are you confused?

According to The New York Times, “The International Olympic Committee — which has often avoided directly sanctioning Russia — has placed the onus on individual sports federations to interpret its two-page guidelines on the sanctioning measures, which include an edict that reads: “All public displays of the organization’s participant name should use the acronym ‘R.O.C.,’ not the full name “Russian Olympic Committee.”

For the few onlookers and journalists present, there was little sign that the team represented a sanctioned nation. A journalist from Kenya expressed confusion about the acronym, asking aloud why the Russian team that had just been announced was labeled R.O.C. on the scoreboard.

That is how things have gone at most venues: R.O.C. on signage and displays but Russia or Russian Olympic Committee in official announcements. Confusion over what to call the team has at times confused sports officials, too: Europe’s gymnastics federation, for example, deleted a tweet on Sunday that referred to the team as Russia in its compilation of the results in the women’s qualifying.”

So, the question is, what’s in a name – especially during the Olympics? How can viewers determine which country is competing, and more importantly, winning?

According to Gideon Kimbrell, “Good branding can shape [an] image...Words have meaning and connotations that can give strong initial impressions. If your brand name evokes a strong image in people’s minds, and that image aligns with your brand identity, your marketing will go much further than it would with a name that evokes an image contrary to your identity. For instance, if you started a gourmet ice cream company, it would take a lot more marketing to convince people that Bronx Creamery was a luxury brand than if you gave it a faux-European name the way Häagen-Dazs did. And there are plenty of examples of successful companies with meaningless names. DuckDuckGo was chosen on a whim. It describes nothing and has no deeper meaning. But the company’s search engine solves a major problem (privacy and tracking), so people flock to it.”

Back to the ROC and this year’s Olympics. Perhaps, this year’s Olympic competition is just another casualty of the Covid pandemic, and we should tune in to the next Olympic Games instead?

In case you're wondering, here are the future dates for your calendar:

2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China: February 4-20

2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France: July 26-August 11

2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina, Italy: February 6-22

2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, USA: July 21-August 6

2032 Summer Olympics in Brisbane, Australia: July 23-August 8

Image Credit: miflippo via Getty Images.

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