While the 2016 Rio Olympics is still a while away, the NZ Olympic Committee launched into action months ago, developing a complex, long-running campaign to start promoting New Zealand’s athletes and get Kiwis amped up for the games.
The Olympic games have changed a lot since the first modern Olympics launched in England the 1800s. Baron de Coubertin is credited with launching the first modern Olympic games, after apparently stealing the idea from a small English town called Wenlock.
Baron de Coubertin’s first games, featured nine sports spread across 43 events with 14 countries, 241 athletes and no women’s events. He eventually extended the games’ events to include ‘sports’ like fire fighting, kite flying, sculpture, painting, town planning, architecture and poetry.
To compare, this year’s Rio Olympic games (5-21 August) will include 42 different sports, will draw 10,500 athletes from 206 countries and there will be 306 medal events and 136 women’s events compared to 161 men’s events. Phew. And while these games sadly won’t include poetry or kite flying, they have added rugby and golf into the mix.
And in charge of amping up New Zealand’s part in the games is the New Zealand Olympic Committee, which is juggling a huge amount of activity across its online ‘Be the Inspiration Hub’, social media, its athletes-cum-influencers and through its decent list of commercial partners with companies such as Sky and ANZ.
When I caught up with the committee’s brand manager Alexandra Cooper, she told me the campaign logo, designed by Buffalo & Co. represents all of the threads that weave throughout the campaign, which was launched on 5 August last year, a year out from the opening ceremony.
Cooper says it tells the story of a journey and was designed in a way that it could be used in its entirety or broken up (many elements of the logo can be seen in the committee’s video content). “We really like it and it’s got a lot of depth to it,” she says.
“We wanted it to be accessible to athletes, the New Zealand public and our commercial partners.”
From the right, the logo has a dark night sky, as in Maori tradition at the beginning of time there was only darkness. She says the Southern Cross also features, as it is an element on both the New Zealand and Brazilian national flags.
Cooper says from the night sky are black ribbons of inspiration that move across the land (the green areas take the loose shape of New Zealand) and represent athletes coming from all corners of the country, travelling past the rolling hills and southern alps to end up in Rio where the iconic Christ the Redeemer stands.
And expressing the ideas behind this logo is the committee’s ‘Be the Inspiration’ hub, created by Gladeye, which has been used to leverage a lot of the committee’s activity.
The site includes video stories of what inspires the athletes, team messages and information about medal winners.
The main video content however is themed around the ‘strength’ and ‘accuracy’, ‘endurance’ and ‘speed’ of the athletes and each video’s theme has a different tempo and soundtrack to reflect them.
NZ Olympic Committee digital content manager Alex Spence says the success comes from the athletes, so it really wanted to put them at the forefront of the campaign.
“And the hub and social media is where we wanted the stories to be told, and that’s the focus for us really,” she says. “That’s where we get the most uptake.”
Each of these videos on the hub, created by Chillbox Creative, focuses on a single athlete and looks at one of the four elements mentioned above, depending on the sport and the skills required. When the videos are viewed within the hub, a Q&A with the athletes is featured below. These videos are also pushed out through social media, with a single video being uploaded to Facebook each week as well as being pushed out through Instagram, Twitter and others.
Spence says one of the best things about this approach is that it allows the committee to show off the sports that aren’t as well known.
“We as an organisation work with lots of sports and we really try to give equal coverage to the different sports, and displaying those is one of the most exciting things for me … The more we tell their stories, the more people are inspired by a particular athlete.”
Spence says the ‘Be the inspiration’ videos have tracked really well online, with most getting between 15,000 and 500,000 views.
The athletes then work as influencers, pushing the “inspiration” out through their own channels, so the content spreads far and wide, she says.
She says sometimes the committee will even get an athlete to take over its Instagram page so followers can witness a day in the life of an Olympian.
The committee also makes an effort to re-tweet and share international news regarding Kiwi athletes.
“And we work with Facebook to realise how we can get behind that algorithm and the more people that share or like [the posts] the more engaged people will be with it.”
She says though the content targets different sub groups, the committee wants it to be appealing to every New Zealander.
“People always say you need to define who you’re talking to and we know who our most engaged audiences are but we also want to inspire the grandparents that are on Facebook. We want to make sure all New Zealanders are proud of the work that we do and the achievements of our athletes,” she says.
Somewhat surprising, is that the campaign’s largest audience is predominantly women in their twenties and thirties.
“For two big events in New Zealand you have two completely different audiences that are engaging in different ways.”
The other event Spence is referring to here, is rugby. “With the sevens being included this year we can tell the story of a women’s sevens team and get a following but with [New Zealand Rugby] its predominantly male but we can share each other’s stuff to get that engagement … so we can have a wider approach to our target audience.”
She says in regard to rugby, surprisingly, though they have tracked well, they haven’t done as well as some of the other ‘Be the inspiration’ videos, which she attributes to rugby being more mainstream here, and the thirst of New Zealanders to tune into something new and different.
One of the campaign’s recent larger pushes is its ‘100 days’ initiative, when it marked the 100 days to Rio with a dawn ceremony in Devonport.
The ceremony took place at sunrise, with the traditional handing over of the New Zealand Olympic team kakahu (cloak).
Speedskater Shane Dobbin, who was the flagbearer for the New Zealand Winter Olympic team in Sochi in 2014, passed on the kakahu Rob Waddell, Chef de Mission to Rio in 2016.
The committee launched a powerful video on the day (produced by Chillbox) with shots of the ceremony and the New Zealand Olympians training, emphasising the fact that New Zealand is the first to see the sunrise and therefore first to start the 100 days countdown:
“As the sun rises over our motu, our training ground, New Zealand is among the first to mark this milestone.”
Yesterday, it also launched a mini content series called ‘The black singlet’ sharing its legacy and telling the stories of those who have donned the singlet.
Spence says the campaign activity will hasten as the start date to the Rio Olympics looms closer. We look forward to seeing more of New Zealand athletes’ inspiring stories as the campaign continues to roll out.