Today marks the opening of the Olympics in London.  Over the last few days, as momentum has built around the Games, there have been a lot of interesting articles on branding related to the Olympics on CNN, The New York Times, FastCompany, AdAge, and other media outlets.  A lot of these articles have talked about marketing of sponsors, “ambush marketing” by non-sponsors, and the value of the Olympic brand itself.  I was surprised to read that the Olympics brand is second only to Apple in terms of its value.  (I’m not sure what’s more surprising to me – that Apple’s brand is stronger than the Olympics where almost every country on the planet participates, or that the Olympics is second only to Apple in terms of brand value).  But I was curious about the impact of the Games on the people it matters to most – the athletes.

For two weeks every four years, the world turns its attention to the best athletes in particular disciplines that rarely get much attention – volleyball, track & field, swimming, gymnastics, archery, speed-skating, curling.  These athletes in the past four years likely have little to no name recognition – even to avid SportsCenter viewers.  Winning gold, or even a memorable landing during the vault competition, can transcend a competitor from a top competitor in their field to a household name.  Contrast that with other individual sports like golf and tennis, which have dedicated channels to them and where athletes gain notoriety over multiple wins in major tournaments (Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Venus & Serena Williams).  Michael Phelps, Apollo Ohno, Kerri Strug, Misty May & Kerry Walsh are all household names based on what they accomplished during maybe one or two televised moments at the Olympics – and got sponsor deals to prove it.  The athletes competing over the next two weeks not only can achieve gold, but notoriety and financial gain.  They can become icons in seemingly a matter of minutes, rather than a matter of years.

So as I watch the London Olympics,  I am looking forward to the memorable moments and the individuals who have spent their whole lives training to be there and hopefully getting their golden moment.

What event are you most looking forward to watching?