Pages Navigation Menu

Olympic Gymnastics and Branding – Deductions Keep You From the Gold

Olympic Gymnastics and Branding – Deductions Keep You From Gold

My family loves watching Olympic gymnastics. The creativity, artistry, power and athletic excellence are awe-inspiring. The “human interest” stories that air between events give us glimpses into the hard work these young athletes endure to get their shot at gold medals on the world’s biggest stage every four years. We revel in their victories, and we get a little misty-eyed during their defeats.

And the differences between gold – and not even making it to the all-around competition – are measured in hundredths of a point!

In the London Olympics 2012, Jordyn Wieber missed the chance to compete for all-around gold by 0.233 points. If you watch this video of Viktoria Komova’s beam routine, you will see how a couple small balance checks – in an otherwise beautiful and challenging routine – were most likely the difference between gold and silver in the all-around competition. American Gabby Douglas won the all-around because she was nearly flawless in all of the events.

Companies can also spend a “lifetime” carefully crafting and maintaining a trusted brand – only to lose consumer trust with a bobble in product quality or customer service.

I witnessed a great example of this scenario this last week. Jessica Northey is a highly engaging, supportive online personality with a healthy dose of good humor. She is the founder of Country Music Chat (#CMChat) that goes live every Monday night at 9pm EST. She is also a social-media savvy consumer who sought to engage one of the brands she uses with a customer service issue. Here was their response that quickly spread through the social graph.

That tweet definitely does not reflect T-Mobile’s attention to detail when it comes to branding and customer service. However, that one tweet was retweeted repeatedly by Jessica’s following. It also showed up in my Facebook and Google+ feeds, and I bet it shows up as a case-study in several blog posts like this one.

Convergys Corp. survey results in November 2009 showed that One Bad Twitter ‘Tweet’ Can Cost 30 Customers. That ratio is probably much larger almost three years later, especially when it originates from an influencer like Jessica Northey, and that does not spell good news for T-Mobile. I wrote about this same topic in a post called Social Media and the NFL – Good Numbers + Bad Decisions = Loss. The same rules outlined in that post still apply in order to “stop the bleeding” and restore trust in the brand:

  1. Own it quickly!
  2. Do not get defensive!
  3. Do not look to place blame!
  4. Do not try to sweep it under the rug or make light of the situation or consumer sentiment!

Jordyn Wieber rebounded from her personal disappointment to absolutely shine during the team competition. She had a clutch performance that contributed to the US Women’s Gymnastics team capturing gold at these Olympics. She still has a great shot at winning an individual gold medal for the floor exercise, too.

I expect T-Mobile to rebound from this faux pas, but it will start by owning the miscues and then seeking resolution that satisfies the consumer while an online world watches…

Are you captivated by the London Olympics like the Vickery household? What is your favorite event? What is your favorite example of a brand making a major gaffe…or a brand providing outstanding quality or service?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Brian Vickery

I love my Vickery Girls - and grandsons! My career has blessed me to the point I was able to start a new consultancy in 2018: Analytic Integrity. I look to provide analytic experience, and business integrity, to an Analytics world while helping data-driven organizations mature. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterLinkedInGoogle PlusYouTube


  1. Wow, what a truly HORRIBLE response from T-Mobile to Jessica who is, INDEED, a major influencer and great friend! I got a lame response from P&G to my disappointment in their “We Support Moms” Olympic campaign. It too got some traction but wasn’t near as bad as T-Mobile’s so they didn’t lose that much. However, when I engaged GE in support of one of their INCLUSIVE ads, I got even more response from them.

    I am sure that my modest following, the discussion on #DadChat, the blog, and my talking about it on radio didn’t encourage peeps to buy P&G stock. They had an opportunity to make good – OWN IT as you say and I always say – and didn’t.

    Now, I’m talking to GE about sponsorships and more. P&G could have enlisted me in their SoMe world – but chose to ignore it. When brands do that to anyone – especially an influencer like Jessica – it’s truly like shooting yourself in the foot.

    It’s SO EASY to engage your audience – I am constantly AMAZED at the foolishness of many BIG brand’s behavior!

    • I agree, Bruce – in some cases, brands are still early in the adoption stage when it comes to recognizing the power of Citizen Influencers (as Mark Schaefer outlines so well in Return on Influence). And even if they are starting to realize the magnitude of PR gaffes via social media, you will still have one-off situations like this where an individual employee allowed a little frustration to creep into their dialogue with a consumer.

      Can’t have that happen…ever!

      I know you and several others brought up the P&G skewed advertising towards moms. It’s an interesting topic for me. I love seeing how passionate several of my friends are in the #DadChat community. They are fathers who should be highlighted as role models for other fathers. Perhaps they can get more moments in the sun as they start “taking back” some of the responsibilities of the household and raising their own kids. I agree that it has been especially nice to see both parents celebrating in those Olympic stands. I have also seen some cases where NBC has shown the fathers (a few swimmers’ dads).

      Of course, I’ve also coached youth sports…where it was 98% moms doing the transit, snack details, and advocating for their kids. And brand marketing is still generally targeted to the masses. They would be foolish to ignore you or make light of your viewpoint. However, they are “playing it safe” with their marketing dollars, while still tugging on the heart strings in general. As a very engaged father, I’ve still appreciated the commercials even if it was the moms getting the attention. With me – and I know you feel the same – it ultimately comes down to engaged and supportive parents supporting their kids in their dreams!

  2. Another key reminder that, if you feel the need to preface your words with “not to be rude…” then you are about to be rude, and shouldn’t say it at all.

    • Excellent point, Rosemary – I actually thought the exact same thing when I read that tweet!

  3. Great post Brian!

    I don’t think a lot of companies actually understand how influential people and the word of mouth can be. I do agree that T-Mobile really missed the boat on that one. In my opinion, P&G missed the boat on there opportunity to give back to parents everywhere, I wrote a piece “Devoted Dads” about the inequality in advertising and I mentioned P&G. I have been amazed at the number of mothers that have come to defend fathers and the bad taste P&G has left in their mouths too. If they were truly concerned about where the believe their money is best spent I would think they might ask moms how they felt about putting dads in a bad light.

    As a social worker I fought for rights every day. I still do that. I will sign petitions on equality and make it known that if we truly want our children to have a better world we can’t go through life with antiquated ideas. I have listened to so many families tell me that dads don’t make good parents. Sadly, a common denominator is they are never given a chance to be a good parent, I will continue to fight for rights for dads to be a parent and not just a fixture in the household.

    Aaron :)

    • Thanks, Aaron.

      I’ve had these P&G discussions with both Bruce and Armin. You all have valid points, and they are especially more important because you feel passionately about them. I haven’t had as strong a reaction. I’ve been a telecommuting dad for 14 years…my oldest daughter is 19. I’ve always “been there” for them as well as coached/taught/cooked for them (along with my wonderful wife). I still see the P&G ads and I get misty-eyed understanding the sacrifices and support these parents provided to their children. I do not see the injustice done to fathers, and I feel I’m in a place to say “hey, wait a minute”.

      We’ve also seen where it is still a vast majority of the moms that carry these burdens…and the pride. In a few of the cases, they were single moms, and the dads were poor role models *and* poor citizens in some of those cases.

      I see several of you in the DadChat community advocating for dads, and I think that is important. You are the folks who *will* drive more of the home purchasing decisions as well as be available as role models to new dads. As your good behaviors start becoming more mainstream – possibly due to your advocacy and role model behavior – marketers will start broadening their target market. At this point, they went for the majority…and what’s more American than Moms and Apple Pie?

      I do think NBC has done a great job capturing dads/uncles expressing their unbridled pride and excitement with their kids’ accomplishments. Those same clips will start showing up in new ads.

  4. Great post Brian! I knew you’d have an Olympics related post this week! :)

    • I might have one more in me, Janice…gotta see if I have time to do a vlog. We have definitely watched from 8p-11p MST on most nights since the Olympics started. It’s been a lot of fun.

  5. I enjoyed this post very much! I was a little frustrated with Groupon recently and a company doing business with them. I purchased some special chocolates for my husband and the chocolatier did not have the fleur de sel chocolates when I arrived. My 4 y/o tried to terrorize the place, so I couldn’t effectively argue my case. I did tell them that the next time they offered a Groupon, they should let customers know on the Groupon ahead of time to call first and make sure they have the inventory! Well, lo and behold, the company just put out another Groupon. Of course, no disclaimer to call first for those fleur de sel chocolates! I contacted Groupon and they dutifully credited my account with $10, but that doesn’t solve the communication issue. If this company can’t keep the special chocolates in that they are advertising, then they shouldn’t offer up a Groupon. Or, since they are not in an easy-to-reach part of Seattle (they are not central at all!), the Groupon should tell customers to call first.

    Thank you for letting me vent. I think I need some chocolate now! But not theirs :-).

    • Come vent any time, Ellen – I know it is rare for you, so you had a true customer service issue. And of course, every negative review impacts the reputation of both Groupon and the company that offered the coupon. Maintaining that reputation is crucial, so at least Groupon stepped up and credited your account. That level of customer service leaves an “impression on the judges” – who are the very consumers likely to purchase through Groupon.

      May there be much enjoyable chocolate in your foreseeable future ;)

  6. As a former Olympic coach (gold medal, LA Olympic Games, 1984 Rhythmic Gymnastics), you had me at “sports”. I look forward to getting to know you, your work and our continued connection. Cheers! Kaarina

    • Thanks for joining this community Kaarina, and I look forward to sharing sports anecdotes and social media/leadership thoughts with you.

      I bet you have awesome stories to draw upon with your Olympics experience…


  1. What the Olympics Can Teach about Humanizing our Company Brand | Brian Vickery – Social Media Sport Analogies - [...] About Me ← Olympic Gymnastics and Branding – Deductions Keep You …
  2. That Bright Tape so Many Olympic Athletes Have On is Made of Cotton! | A Colorful AdventureA Colorful Adventure - [...] Olympic Gymnastics and Branding – Deductions Keep You From the Gold ( [...]