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Leverage the Brand You Have: Salt Lake 2002

Especially now that Mitt Romney is running as a candidate for President of the U.S., there is heightened scrutiny of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics. This post has nothing to do with politics – it’s all about the marketing that happened around the Olympics in those days.

The Salt Lake Olympics faced a bribery scandal in 2001, and the Games were in disarray when Mitt Romney was offered and took over leadership of Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC). SLOC regrouped and went on to put on a wonderful event – the last Olympics held in the United States.

The birth of Growth Nation is traced to those days, and I was fortunate to lead a project and work side-by side with members of SLOC in preparation for those games. The winter coat with the Olympics logos which I received from that work – which I only seem to wear when visiting Portland around Christmas – is a prized possession.

Despite all the troubles facing them at that time, SLOC came to grips with what they had – a great brand to leverage. As with any business, it’s always helpful to take an inventory of what you have – and the Olympics brand is magical.  And so more than just getting things organized – which by the way was no small means – the team did an amazing job of creating characters, materials and other Olympics collateral that over a short period of time transformed the games from potential failure to success.

Less than two years later I was also involved with Athens 2004, and I can say without question that organization matters! But so does the brand – and Athens 2004 succeeded despite issues with project management – because the games returned home and the pride of the Olympics shone through it all.

No matter your business situation, it is important to take stock and leverage the brand you have.  Here are some ideas to consider.

1) Take stock of your brand. Evaluate your target, offering, difference and message – and consider how much goodwill is stored within your brand. If there is some goodwill, tap in. If there isn’t, the task is larger.

2) Use what you have. A brand can be a spectacularly powerful asset. Consider sudden acceleration issues at Toyota a few years ago that resulted in bad publicity and lost sales. Yet there was so much goodwill stored in the brand that Toyota was able to take some specific actions to shore up support and not only retain most of their customers, but bring back many others they lost. Contrast that with BP – who didn’t have a strong brand presence when they made mistake after mistake in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill debacle, and they have been working ever since to build a reputation. They didn’t have the goodwill to tap into.

3) Polish the brand. Continue building your brand asset. Exceed your targets’ expectations and always leave the brand stronger with every year that passes. SLOC did a great job of recovering the Olympics brand and handed Athens a stronger franchise. The Salt Lake 2002 legacy remains strong 10 years later, and this past weekend Mitt Romney was in Salt Lake celebrating – as he should. All of us that were part of the event have wonderful memories that we’ll never forget.

Again this post is all about marketing – not politics.

Salt Lake 2002 Olympics, February 8-24, 2002 – Happy 10th Anniversary!

About Doug Bruhnke

Growth Nation is a global full-service marketing and business growth firm that creates more leads, stronger brands and higher revenue for clients in technology, manufacturing, healthcare and professional services. Our growth process has created over $1 billion of new revenue.


  1. Great post Doug. SLC 2002 was a great time! We’re now pondering bringing the games back . . . I hope we do.

  2. Wouldn’t that be amazing! I’ll always remember that Friday of opening ceremonies – driving over Point of the Mountain from Orem in the Valley and the circle of security helicopters all overhead. Then the opening ceremonies – wow – brings chills.

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