I have to admit, the merchants and marketers for these 21st Olympic Winter Games got it right. I am usually pretty critical but amongst VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee), the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee), the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company), they deserve a gold medal for their collective performance in the merchandising and visual presentation of these games.
Starting with the colour scheme of blue, green and white (utlizing colour names such as Mist, Moss, Cloud, Winter Ocean and Coast Forest) which symbolized the Vancouver environment and maritime location of the picturesque city, it created a fresh and lively face to these games. Between sea and sky, Vancouver and Whistler represent natural beauty more than any other venue in Olympic history. From Pacific Ocean to Rocky Mountains, the colour scheme perfectly depicted the mood and flavour of the natural surroundings. And these colours were everywhere.
The colours wrapped every venue, internally and externally. They domiated all communications. They became the “Smurf” colour of the volunteers. Even the short track speed skating helmets were covered either in blue or green. Vancouver 2010 merchandise was based around those colours and they came out beautifully in t-shirts, toques, sweats and jackets. The colours were vibrant, wearable and even fresh and bright to ensure the wearability extended throughout the spring. It was brilliant.
Speaking of brilliant, the phrase that was chosen as the slogan for the games (that came from our National Anthem) “With Glowing Hearts / Des Plus Brilliants Exploits”, was perfect. It captured the exact spirit that VANOC hoped the nation would feel from coast to coast to coast and, eventually, the nation did. As each day passed, our entire nation kept swelling with pride until almost all 33 million of us burst with joy around 6:15 PM eastern on Sunday, February 28th, when Sidney Crosby lit the lamp in overtime to win a record breaking (and our most sought after) gold medal for Canada. Throughout the 17 day festival, the streets of the two host cities were jammed with people just wanting to be part of history and to bask in the glow of our collective nationalism that appeared, not only at venues, but on Robson Street in Vancouver and Main Street in Whistler.
I believe the sponsors also did a reasonable job of promoting their brand and creating ads and messaging that conveyed a sense of national pride along with some goodwil for their brands. McDonald’s always does a great job at these events, as does Coca Cola. But Royal Bank of Canada, Rona, Bell and Chevrolet surprised me by providing different perspectives on the Games and blending in with effective messages using humour, product information and unique takes on the Olympic Experience, all wrapped in Canadiana. Petro-Canada was the only real disappointment as they offered no message that tugged at our hearts or made us smile even though their plan of underwriting the travel costs of families of athletes was a noble one. They did not get proper credit for this and it was their own fault.
But the biggest surprise was HBC. They created a collection of apparel and accessories that resonated with the average Canadian and they were rewarded. Forget about the line-ups to get into the superstores in downtown Vancouver and Whistler. That might have happened anyway. But the assortment was narrow, focused on our national colours (with black thrown in the mix which is always the hottest colour in anything – smart move), available in both Hudson’s Bay and Zellers stores across the country and priced appropriately. The other correct decision they made was ensuring that what was worn by the athletes was actually on sale to the public which made the collection seem that much more authentic. I haven’t even talked about the mitts yet, but the Toronto Star covered that angle this morning. Suffice to say, they sold almost 3,000,000 pairs of mittens, whose proceeds will generously be donated to the athlete’s Own The Podium fund. It all looks very good on them right now. I am not sure this goodwill has translated or will translate into higher sales and better performance in the rest of the store or for the rest of their gigantic assortments in either chain, but it isn’t going to hurt them and at least they made their names part of the national conversation again, which is never a bad thing.
I would only quibble about their forecasts for the merchandise, as they ran out of key items even before the Olympics started and the number of locations in Vancouver that were selling the merchandise. My sense is they could have used a few more temporary “Olympic Merchandise Stores” to help alleviate the stress and maybe even sell more merchandise on site.
My black toque with the VANOC logo on it is off to the merchants for the best ever merchandising performance. It sure beats what Sochi, Russia looked like they were planning to run with for 2014…