Olympic Branding: Playing It Safe

#TBT – In the early 80s Bright Design, or known then as Bright and Associates, had the honor of being one of just three creative studios to work on the branding of the now famous ‘84 Los Angeles Olympics. While LA’84 is now considered to be one of the most (financially) successful Olympics of all time, it certainly had many behind-the-scenes obstacles to overcome. So here at Bright Design, we empathize with Rio’s 2016 branding challenges.

The media anxiety built around Brazil’s allegedly corrupt infrastructure, economic concerns, Zika virus, contaminated water, and security threats have been a PR nightmare. And in the weeks leading up to Opening Ceremonies there has been more focus on Rio’s hosting challenges than the actual athletic challenges. So without exaggeration, branding Rio 2016 was truly an Olympic task.

Deep down, participants and viewers both want to be reassured that everything is going to be just fine. So perhaps the logo and environmental design’s biggest creative challenge is actually NOT to challenge. Could you imagine introducing the edgy and controversial 2012 London Olympics logo layered on top of everything else Rio 2016 has had to deal with?

With so much negativity preceding the Games, a (very) safe design was probably the best answer. Enter the branding experts known as Tatil, the Brazilian design studio tasked with the job. The concept behind the logo is strong yet safe—because safe is what’s appropriate. And in this case, safe might actually be good design.

The shape of the logo represents the landmark Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio. The human forms represent the warm welcoming Carioca soul (‘Carioca’ is a local expression that refers to anything related to Rio). And the colors represent the sun, water and jungles of Brazil. 

Now, contrary to the dismal picture the press has painted, we have all witnessed brightly colored arenas with beautifully clad attendants, saturated signage with bold graphics and an artistically crafted typeface. It’s safe. It’s reassuring because of its familiarity. And it subtly makes us feel good.

So now when we gleefully watch Simone or Michael compete for their next gold medal—we’re not distracted by the diving pool’s green water! Ahhh. Branding at its finest.

Christian Klawitter

Bright Design, 4223 Glencoe Avenue, Marina del Rey, CA, 90292