I am not an athlete. Yet, for two weeks during every biennial Olympic Games, I become one — a swimmer, a skater, a gymnast, a runner. In as much as the television airwaves and time difference will allow, I tune in to experience them all. And, I’m not alone. Mintel’s Marketing to Sports Fans–U.S., June 2012 shows that some 61% of respondents make a special effort to tune in to the Olympic Games when they are broadcast.

An example of sports bandwagoning at its finest, the Olympics have a tendency to rouse athletic enthusiasm among even the least likely of sports fans. However, they do so because rarely are the Games solely about sport. They also involve culture and history, and incite a level of international pride and patriotism — for one’s own country as well as all those competing — that goes unmatched by any run-of-the-mill sporting event. It’s this all-encompassing experience that causes almost anyone who watches even a sliver of the competitions to walk away a sports enthusiast. If the opening ceremonies and first days of competition in the Summer Olympic Games are any indication, we can expect the same of London 2012.

How London 2012 creates international sports unity

The 30th Olympiad opened in London on Friday (July 27th) with a ceremony infused with the glitz and glamor that has become typical of Olympic opening ceremonies. However, it particularly excelled in its melding of the UK’s history and literature to educate as well as entertain. Volunteer actors walked viewers from the Agrarian Era through the Industrial Revolution, and bedtime took on new meaning as evil English storybook characters such as the Harry Potter series’ Voldemort and The 101 Dalmations’ Cruella DeVille battled with the likes of Mary Poppins for control of children’s dreams–or nightmares.

The ceremony’s highlight, however, and perhaps the best indication of how such an international sporting competition is meant to be infused with fun and celebration, occurred in the first few moments of the opening. Stunt doubles for Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond film series’ actor Daniel Craig parachuted into the stadium following a short video of the two in the palace, showing that even royalty adopts the spirit of the games. At that moment, Her Royal Highness added to her list of nobilities a new title for which she will likely also be remembered–“Bond Girl. ” Her early enthusiasm easily set the tone for events to follow.

International sports unity grounded in Olympic enthusiasm

Athletes from across the globe — more than 10,000 of them — have come together in the spirit of Olympic competition, but it’s no surprise that by the time they filed in for the Parade of Nations, they were likely as enthusiastic about merely participating as they were the prospect of winning a medal. In fact, of the more than 200 countries represented, 80 never even won a medal in past Games. The Mintel Inspire trend Patriot Games discusses the idea that, as we become a more global society, consumers try to balance their allegiance to their own countries and local areas with the ones they develop to the international community. The sportsmanship displayed at the Olympic Games is an indication that this balance can be found at such events, as athletes simultaneously balance their own performance and desire to “deliver” for their home countries with respect for the skill, efforts, and mere presence of their international competitors.

As London 2012 progresses, spectators across the globe and competing as well as non-competing athletes will no doubt have their eyes on the prize. Most watched in wonder, for example, when U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won his 19th medal to become the most decorated Olympian. They will also want to see how the U.S. stacks up overall against its main competitor, China. However, at the end of the day, we must also remember that — in the true spirit of the Olympic Games — winning is defined by more than the medal count.

For more information please contact us or see Mintel’s report Marketing to Sports Fans–U.S., June 2012

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