PRs share their favourite Olympic moments

In the aftermath of the Rio Olympics 2016, Gorkana asks comms pros to pick their PR highlights from the event.

This month’s Olympic Games in Brazil, which ended on Saturday, attracted both positive and negative press.

Before its opening ceremony, there were stories about how the Brazilian authorities would struggle to host a successful event, whether Russian athletes would be allowed to compete after doping allegations and athletes’ health concerns over the Zika virus. In the case of the latter, some competitors even pulled out of the games citing the health issue.

Once the games began, despite some mishaps (including the water in the Olympic diving pool turning green), plenty of good news – particularly from a UK perspective – has been produced. Asked to talk about their own highlights, comms pros chose to recall their favourite athletes’ success, from the UK’s Max Whitlock winning double gold or David Katoatau’s winning dance, and successful brand partnerships as the best moments from the games. Here are their top picks:

Catherine Eastham, practice director: consulting, sponsorship & sport, at Four Communications

“Hard to pick a single PR moment from Rio 2016 and the argument could be that the sport itself provided the best PR moments e.g. Team GB women’s hockey team winning gold will do far more for recruitment, sponsorship and funding for the sport than a standalone PR campaign….

“However, Four Consulting, Sponsorship & Sports’ favourite PR moment, which highlighted the Olympic Spirit and social impact of the Games, was Big David Katoatau, from Kiribati, whose dancing each time he successfully lifted in the men’s 105kg weightlifting Group B final generated countless social and traditional media column inches. David cleverly ensured that the public knew he wasn’t just dancing for the joy of it but to draw attention  to climate change and ensure the world knows about Kiribati ‘before it sinks’.

“Truly deserves a gold medal for a simple and effective PR campaign!”

Nicola Hanley, senior account director at Ketchum Sports & Entertainment

“As a huge cycling fan, Team GB’s medal haul in the velodrome was obviously something I really relished in and spent a lot of hours watching. However, I think my real stand out moment was Max Whitlock’s performance in the gymnastics; making history as our first ever gymnastics Olympic Champion, and then going on to do it again just a couple of hours later was unreal.

“As part of our work with Nissan we were lucky enough to work with Max just before he headed off to the games, so it was nice to see him have such success after speaking to him just a few weeks before about what he thought his chances were.”

Bob Morris, partner – content and creative at Instinctif

“The Olympics has served as a salutary reminder that nothing succeeds quite like success.  In the lead up to the Games the popular narrative was of a games in disarray; unfinished stadia, the Zika virus, and a populous riven with poverty and protest.

“However as soon as the gold rush began, those reservations melted away and the story became one of triumph and international success. Compare that story arc with the international competition that preceded the Olympics, Euro 2016: a story that began with hope and expectation and descended into farce and recrimination. When it comes to sporting endeavour, winning is golden.”

David Alexander, managing director at Calacus PR

“Two moments stand out for me. On a personal level, the triumph of the Men’s Eight brought a tear to my eye. I’ve known and worked with Pete Reed since Beijing in 2008 and his recovery after a dog allergy threatened his future in the sport was magnificent. To bounce back and be part of a team that won gold, his third in successive games, is a testament to his talent and indeed the brilliance of British Rowing.

“Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin completing the 5000m together after a collision appeared to have ended their medal dreams was a magical moment deserving of the Olympic recognition they received.”

Kieran Kent, managing director at Propeller PR

“The Gold Medal heroics of Bolt, Phelps, Farah and Trott will undoubtedly live long in the memory but after so much negativity before the Games as a result of the Russian doping scandal, the image of Hamblin and D’Agostino embracing each other after finishing the race was a poignant moment and inadvertently it represented a fantastic PR story for the IOC.”

Andrew Boocock, senior account manager at Stripe Communications

“Rio 2016 has proven once again why the Olympics remains the greatest, and most important sporting event on earth. Sure there’s been a number of high profile PR hurdles for organisers to contend with, but despite Government protests, the threat of Zika and the ongoing doping scandal, these Olympics have delivered in every sense of the word.

“One of my favourite PR moments has to be the image of Nikki Hamblin helping Abbey D’Agostino up to her feet after the pair collided in the 5,000 metres. Amongst all of the incredible record-breaking stories and history-making headlines, this act of sportsmanship will stand the test of time as representing the true spirit of the Olympics.”

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