When the Olympic Movement was just beginning, it was small and somewhat intimate, lacking global recognition. Only 258 athletes from sixteen nations competed in Chamonix in the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924. However, times have changed, and the 2010 Olympic Winter Games were attended by 2,600 athletes representing 82 countries. Along with this growth has come the need for sizable revenues to ensure that the Games are successful.
Host television rights sell for hundreds of millions of dollars, and sponsors pay large sums to purchase the rights to associate their business with the Olympic Games. These corporate sponsors are in effect buying the rights to use the brand of the Games in advertising, promotional activities and company communication. They are paying millions of dollars to associate themselves with values that the Olympic brand represents: excellence, respect and friendship.
“The Olympic Games has one of the most powerful brands in the world,” explains Andrea Shaw, VANOC Vice President of Sponsorship Sales and Marketing. “The Olympic brand has credibility, and what we did with the brand was raise the bar and make it even more valuable to the Olympic Movement. Those companies who were able to associate themselves with our brand made great gains with their consumers.
Each local Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games takes the Olympic brand and personalizes it for their own Games. The objective is to use graphic elements to tell a unique story of the host region and country. In a sense, it helps the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games differentiate itself from previous Games.
The graphic identity unifies and beautifies the Games with a consistent look and feel across all environment and communications. When the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) began the process of
developing its graphic identity, it wanted to reflect the cultural and natural elements of Canada and the West Coast.
“We wanted to promote the host region,” explains Jason Esteban, a member of VANOC’s graphic design team. “So we selected a sea to sky colour palate of blues and greens, and used shapes and images that evoked a sense of movement and change. We included humorous elements like a seaplane with dragon fly wings, because we wanted to reflect the Canadian trait of not taking ourselves too seriously.”
Shortly after winning the rights to host the Games, VANOC conducted a design competition to develop the Vancouver 2010 logo, receiving over 1,600 submissions. Rivera Design Group, a Vancouver-based graphic design company, won with their submission of an inukshuk entitled “Ilanaaq” (the inuit word for friend). The bright colours, outstretched arms and smile represented an appreciation for Canada’s aboriginal heritage and the joy that Canadians feel towards winter.
Olympic mascots first made their appearance at the Grenoble 1968 Olympic Winter Games, and have been a regular part of graphic identity ever since. They are used in a variety of applications and help to engage children in the excitement of the Games. At first, Olympic mascots were animals native to the host country; however, they now include animals, humans, as well as mythical and imaginary creatures. Miga the sea bear, Quachi the Sasquatch, Sumi the spirit animal, and Mukmuk the Vancouver Island marmot became the face of the 2010 Games for children around the world. Aside from plush toys, their images were found on a variety of merchandise ranging from pins to clothing. The mascotscomprised a large portion of VANOC’s merchandise sales. They reinforced Vancouver’s warm, welcoming and safe qualities, while extending the brand to children around the world.
An important part of the graphic identity of any Games is the design of the medals. Cropped from a section of a master artwork, designed by Aboriginal artist Corrine Hunt, each medal contains a unique section of the overall image. Building upon this, globally respected designer, Omer Arbel, developed a process to give the medals a wavy face. As such, each medal is a one-of-a-kind design. The medals were fabricated by the Royal Canadian Mint who used an elaborate 30-step process.
Pictographs and sport illustrations are images that represent the different sports. The pictographs have traditionally relied on simplified silhouettes to depict each sport; however, the VANOC pictographs incorporated more dynamism to capture the athlete in motion. The sport illustrations are more detailed and present a more realistic and almost photographic image of the athletes.
“We tried to ‘heroize’ the athletes much like you see in a superhero comic,” says Esteban. “We altered perspective so that some parts of the athlete were bigger and looked like they were coming off the page.”By developing a strong and creative brand identity, VANOC was able to engage the public in the excitement of the 2010 Games. The distinctive swirls, colors, images and shapes helped define the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games brand, etching the event in our memories for years to come.
1. If you were developing the graphic identity for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, what are some of the images and graphic elements that you would want to incorporate? How would these help differentiate these Games and profile the host region and country?
2. Design a Games emblem for the next time that Canada hosts an Olympic or Olympic Winter Games. Assume that it is being hosted in a city near you. Justify and explain your design, choice of colours, images and effects.
3. What would you include in the design for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games medal? Design the medal for these Games.
Consider extending the case study by adding a research component.
1. Research the Olympic Winter Games mascots. How have the mascots changed over the years?
2. Compare the graphic identity of the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games to that of the 2010 Winter Games. Which do you feel best represents the host region and country?
3. Review the RBC website for the Olympic Torch Relay and and describe how their graphic identity is distinct from that of the Vancouver 2010 look and feel. How is it the same?
Incorporate writing skills by having the students write a persuasive paragraph that argues for or against these statements.
1. The mascots for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games were a playful representation of Canada and its Aboriginal peoples’ mythology.
2. The graphic identity of the 2010 Games was far more sophisticated and effective than that of the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
The following case projects are more lengthy, but will allow your students to examine the topic in more depth.
1. A Canadian city has won the rights to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, and is hosting a design competition to develop the look and feel of the Games. Your design company has decided to enter a submission. Design an Olympic logo, pictograph, mascot, medal and/or poster. Explain each of these and how they help to profile the host region and country.
2. The organizers for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games are hosting a design competition to develop the look and feel of the Games. Your design company has decided to enter a submission. Design an event logo, pictograph, mascot, medal and/or poster. Explain each of these and how they help to profile the host region and country.