The Olympic Games were the occasion for a number of luxury brands to associate with national teams (you will find a summary here). These co-branding operations were more or less successful. I would like to mention four of them in particular, those to which I would award medals, in the spirit of the occasion:
Gold Medal: Armani and the Italian team
Here is an excellent example of consistency: an Italian brand uses its "sports" collection, EA7, to outfit the Italian team. An extremely elegant presentation - conserving the Black & White codes of Emporio Armani, projecting Italy and its qualities, and sports where it traditionally shines - characterized this campaign labelled "The Sense of Being." This limited collection was backed up by a comprehensive communications campaign: a website, an app, visuals created by Richard Phibbs, TV commercials...
Silver Medal: Hermès and the French show jumping team
The French brand, Hermes, entirely consistent with its history, created the blazers of the French show jumping team. A really nice video, and designs by Philippe Dumas accompanied a collection that will probably hit the stores in 2013 as part of the spring-summer collection.
The team, unfortunately, did not bring back a medal from London (this will have no impact on the brand) - but why didn't Hermes have enough drive to outfit the entire French contingent?
Bronze Medal: Stella McCartney and the British team
It was, in fact, a venture spearheaded by Adidas - which asked Stella McCartney, the English designer, to design the swimsuits of the British athletes. This raised an outcry in the media about the reinterpretation of the national flag by the designer (see the article in the Huffington Post): too much blue, and where did the red go?
From the point of view of consistency, it is minimal in this case: Adidas will certainly benefit from the success of the British team.
Chocolate medal: Ralph Lauren and the U.S. team
The USA / Ralph Lauren co-branding - where consistency is, in appearance, very strong - was marked by two major controversies:
- All the outfits of the American team created by Ralph Lauren, were manufactured in China: this (in the middle of an election year) evoked a flood of criticism of the brand and the American team (asking them to "burn 'Made in China' USA uniforms"). I know, from reliable sources, that initially Ralph Lauren approached an Italian manufacturer and considered that the price offered did not suit their budget. You can be certain that no such controversy would have arisen if this solution had been chosen: "Made in China" remains synonymous with poor quality and outsourcing in the eyes of commentators of every hue.
- On the jackets worn by the athletes at the opening ceremony, the Ralph Lauren logo is larger than the American flag: the critics (justifiably) point out that the sponsor-brand occupied too much space.
The "privilege" highlighted by Ralph Lauren therefore spills over into an unrepentant mercantilism. But then, only too happy to find a sponsor, did the officials of the U.S. team consider the questions of quality, manufacturing location or size of the logo?