Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why I like the 2012 London Olympics logo

Among all the euphoria that flowed from winning the right and honour of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, it was the one thing that brought the country crashing down to earth with a bump.

Launched in June 2007 and designed by Wolff Olins at a cost of £400,000, the logo was greeted with derision and embarrassment from press and public alike. The recent claims by the head of Iran's National Olympic Committee that the logo spells out the word 'Zion' and was therefore a subtle, pro-Israel emblem, has provided further criticism and pushed it firmly back into the spotlight.

After launch, the general consensus was that the logo was nothing more than art school standard, lacking any real imagination or flair. When put into context with previous Olympics logos, the design is very different and goes against the standard. Neon colours, white Olympic rings and no emblem to associate the games with the host country. It's no surprise then that the recently launched Rio 2016 logo is a return to form.

However amidst all the criticism, I am going to stand up for the logo. I like it.

I think it's a very clever design that has achieved its brief, which was to create a different and exciting logo that reaches out to young people, defines London as a city, Great Britain as a country and the Olympic Committee as an Organisation.

Perhaps this emphasis on youth was the instigator for the media backlash and in some ways is affirming the success of the design. However, successful branding should appeal to more than one demographic. Even more so for an Olympic Games that the British Public is ostensibly paying for.

One of the main reasons why I like it is its versatility. From a purely marketing point of view, it has enabled the Games' partners, like EDF Energy and Lloyds TSB, to use it with their own branding, while retaining its identity as the Olympic logo.

There aren't many brands that can achieve this and certainly the designs from Sydney, Athens, Beijing and Rio would find it difficult to incorporate sponsor's branding. I can almost sense the collective sighs at the thought of me backing multinationals highjacking an amateur sports event's logo to boost their profile. Is there nothing left that's sacred?

The reality is that sponsorship is a necessity for staging global events. The London 2012 Organising Committee will receive an estimated 40% of its operating budget from this sponsorship. This reduces the pressure on the Government's resources and provides opportunities for the Committee to claw back some of the costs of running the Games.

What's also important with the logo is that it has got people talking; a huge amount of column inches have been dedicated to it, providing it with the perfect launch. Everyone knows what it looks like and everyone has an opinion on it. And that's what's important.

It has instantly provided the London Olympics with a recognisable symbol and something to associate with the Games. If we're being honest, how many of us remembered any of the previous logos for the Olympic Games? I don't even remember the logo for South African Football World Cup and that was barely six months ago. I'll remember the 2012 Olympics logo for some time to come.

I actually think that if people are questioned about the logo again, almost four years after it was first revealed, most opinions will have softened. Time is a great healer. Coupled with this, the Iranian ire has enabled the British public to do what it does best; stand up for itself in the face of adversity. These comments have switched focus from attacking our own to supporting it and with the games a little over 500 days away, this will only amplify as excitement builds.