London 2012 – say nothing at all…

This is the press release for the new London 2012 olympics logo. 

It is a great example of why PR for marketing activities is not a good idea.

Announcing a new advertising campaign, logo or direct mail campaign, for example, is generally only of interest to the client’s marketing department and other luvvies reading Marketing magazine or Campaign.

Of course, the marketing director and CEO – not to mention the agencies involved – will want the world to marvel over their collective, creative genius.  But my advice is that PR practitioners should refuse to do such “bling” campaigns where the goal is just to promote the marketing activity.  Public relations can certainly help achieve marketing objectives (such as increasing sales) or be part of an integrated marketing campaign – but PR for marketing is just wrong.

The hype before the “launch” of the 2012 logo was huge – bloggers and media contacts were trailed the announcement in advance, this was going to be big news:

New brand and vision revealed for London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.  New brand aims to inspire everyone to embrace the Olympic spirit – and make 2012 ‘Everyone’s Games’.

The minute you start to plug the marketing rather than the product, you are asking for comment or criticism of the creative merits.  The work had better be as good as the [See video] – or you are in trouble. 

More evidence comes when you have to explain that “The new Olympic emblem is based on the number 2012 – the year of the Games” and that it “includes the Olympic Rings, one of the world’s most recognised brands, and the word ‘London’ – the world’s most diverse city”

Then there are the adjectives – another sign of a floundering press release:  

The powerful, modern emblem symbolises the dynamic Olympic spirit and its inspirational ability to reach out to people all over the world.

Cue the trite quote (just the first of many of course):

“London 2012 will be Everyone’s Games, everyone’s 2012. This is the vision at the very heart of our brand. It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world. It is an invitation to take part and be involved,” said London 2012 Chairman, Sebastian Coe.

“We will host a Games where everyone is invited to join in because they are inspired by the Games to either take part in the many sports, cultural, educational and community events leading up to 2012 or they will be inspired to achieve personal goals,” he added.

And it doesn’t stop there – unfortunately.  Personally, I am getting a sense of the Millennium Dome as I read on… 

London 2012 will be a Games for a connected world making the most of exciting new technology to get people closer to the action they want to see, when, where and how they want to experience it.

The new emblem is dynamic, modern and flexible reflecting a brand savvy world where people, especially young people, no longer relate to static logos but respond to a dynamic brand that works with new technology and across traditional and new media networks.  

It will become London 2012’s visual icon, instantly recognisable amongst all age groups, all around the world. It will establish the character and identity of the London 2012 Games and what the Games will symbolise nationally and internationally.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell continues (I’ll spare you offerings from Mayor Ken et al):

“This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about – an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country. It takes our values to the world beyond our shores, acting both as an invitation and an inspiration. This is not just a marketing logo, but a symbol that will become familiar, instantly recognisable and associated with our Games in so many ways during the next five years.”

It is a squiggly drawing people – it is just a marketing logo and that’s how it should be treated.  If you have to have one, design it, use it, but don’t “launch” it to the world like it matters.

The thousands of on the BBC (compared oddly no comments on the London 2012 blog) show the people of Britain are not impressed – who thought they would be interested in a dynamic, flexible logo for the Games – well clearly they care not for such innovation or inspiration.   They are concerned about reported fee of £400,000 for design consultancy Wolff Ollins – even if it was “funded by private sources”. 

When a key communications objective leading up to the London 2012 Games ought to be to demonstrate good financial management (given that the public have got the message that it has already gone pear-shaped) – then hooplah for a logo ain’t a good idea.

But of course, like it or not, we can rest easy that:

The unique new emblem already enjoys legal protection, offering London 2012 and its sponsors protection from copying and ambush marketing

In PR, when the marketing department ask you to promote their campaigns – the work had better be really amazing – or you should remind them there are times when it is best to say nothing at all and let the creative do the talking for itself.

Published by

Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

10 thoughts on “London 2012 – say nothing at all…”

  1. Heather, when the Olympics came to my town, Atlanta, in 1996 they did a similar “reveal” for the logo. Then so many people copied/stole it, they had to design a new one. And, you guessed it, they did a reveal for that one, too. Sigh.

  2. I’d just love to see the cuttings books and how the online/offline media evaluation will present the “success” of the launch back to the client and politicians. Anyone for Google juice?

  3. Few will forget the launch, that’s for sure. And I must admit, seeing little copies of the logo jumbled together like that makes me reflexively reach for my joystick. Old-skool Atari-style space invaders game for the mobile to rescue the fiasco, maybe?

    Perhaps we can learn something else from this Swastika by committee: with consideration to the impracticality and downright incredulous appearance of the wolff-olins website, sometimes, a sudden increase of web traffic can be a bad thing.

  4. Scott – it is fascinating the associations that have been mentioned re the new logo, most of them not very positive or linked to the supposed “brand messages”. Good point about Wolff Olins website too.

  5. Is there a past Olympic logo that you consider particularly memorable (i.e., the work was “really amazing?”), Heather?

    Sometimes it’s best to compare and contrast. That was one of my favourite things at the Olympic Museum (in Lausanne, Switzerland), seeing all of the posters, pins and souvenirs, placed side by side.

    I checked the museum’s website to see if it had a page devoted just to past Olympic logos. It doesn’t, but there is a section that lists all of the past Summer and Winter games chronologically, so by flipping in and out you can get a sense of branding and marketing efforts over the years.

    (And how do you think the London Olympic logo stands up next to Beijing and Vancouver, both logos of which have had their own voracious critics?)

  6. That press release makes me want to stick pins in my eyes. Utterly awful. All this twittering about ‘brand values’ is nonsensical. You cannot ‘create’ an iconic brand out of thin air – something becomes iconic because of what it is, because of its inherent value, quality consistency. Stephen Bayley summed it up well in this week’s Observer: “We are absolutely sick to death with the annoying idea of the ‘brand’. Of course brands exist, and it is easy to explain what they are. A brand is the associations and expectations that successful products acquire and, in due course, the logo becomes their affectionately recognised messenger.”,,2100293,00.html
    Just throwing together some juvenile 80s-looking graphics and telling us that the resulting mess represents everything that is ‘edgy’, ‘inclusive’, ‘diverse’ or whatever other random buzzwords you can scrape together does not actually make it all these things.

    And breathe…

  7. Ceri – brilliant comment, thanks. I had a student complete a Diploma project on brand icons a few years ago (rather than iconic brands) and again it was clear that none were deliberately created to be such. For example, she considered Concorde which had become a brand icon for British Airways. Of course the design of Concorde itself was important, but also the expectations and glamourous, exciting associations it created.

    Judy – to be honest, I am not sure that many Olympic logos in themselves are that memorable. To a large extent that is the way it should be – let’s remember the real achievements of the participants which are themselves trully newsworthy and remarkable.

    My view is that a logo is just a logo (as Mayor Ken said yesterday – although I’m not convinced it will grow on us). The big mistake was the hype in launching it. If it had just appeared would we have been so excited?

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