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The Power of Branding - Usain Bolt

With the Rio Olympics now in the books, your good friends over here at GLAD WORKS are looking back at a couple of our favorite advertising and branding moments surrounding the games. In a series we call "The Power of…", we'll breakdown what we see, using a marketer's eye.

The Power of Branding

If you kept up with the games like we did, or if you live on the planet Earth, you know that Usain Bolt is the fastest man on land! After completing the unprecedented Triple-Triple in his final Olympics, that just can't be disputed anymore. In regular person speak, that means he won a gold medal in the three main Sprinting events – the 100m, the 200m, and the 4x100 Relay – in three straight Olympics – 2008, 2012, and 2016. Yes, you read that correctly! Nine total gold medals over an eight-year period and World Record times in each event.

From a marketing perspective, every brand wants to avoid having their qualities misrepresented. Whether you are a small business facing a PR crisis or a powerful corporate giant perceived to be unapproachable, a bad image matters to any brand. There are countless public relations professionals in our industry who get paid a ton of money to avoid those types of negative stamps. In the age of social media, the Retweet, and the Share – a bad image can spread like wildfire and wildfire can devastate a brand.

For an athlete's brand, the "arrogant superstar" label is a nightmare. Usain Bolt didn't invent the cocky athlete persona, nor will he be the last one tagged with it. He has, however, taken it to a global level by showcasing it on the world's stage. Patriotism is expected but braggadocio from an Olympian could rub entire countries the wrong way. Bolt is well known for showboating, chest thumping, dancing, and celebrating — before his races are even over! Nobody likes a sore winner, especially if they win a lot.

Usain Bolt is phenomenally good at what he does and he knows it. It's easy to think that a guy like that is literally not human or relatable. Now, imagine if it was your job to do just that for his brand! Well, if you pride yourself on paying attention to great marketing like we do — you'll notice Gatorade did exactly that with "The Boy Who Learned To Fly". Check it out!

Warm and fuzzy feeling, right? We know! This ad is immediately colorful and charming. It's animated in the style of a children's storybook or those beloved shorts before Disney Pixar movies that we all love (admit it!). It frames Bolt's childhood in a way that is authentically Jamaican, yet universal and lovable!

Anyone who watches that ad is left feeling a little bit closer to Usain Bolt, which is a lot to be said for the fastest human being in Olympics history! More than that, it takes a quality that people may dislike about him and tells us why it serves as strength to help him be his best self. He shows us that he has struggled, that he gets scared, that he gets discouraged, and that he is ultimately just like an of us striving to achieve our goals.

That is what great branding does — it transforms arrogance into confidence, it turns cockiness into passion, and it can tell a story that explains excessive celebration as pure joy. With seven minutes of proper branding, Usain Bolt goes from a talented sore winner who taunts fellow competitors, to a true-life underdog who is simply fueled by the fun of competition. That is the power of great professional branding and true storytelling. That's not only something that we recognize and appreciate here at GLAD WORKS, but something that we do for our own clients — in whatever races they may be running!

Chime in and let us know what you think about the best ads from this year's Olympic Games!