I am of the belief that we never really doubted Usain Bolt—we Brits just love a good rivalry. What better rivalry than that of two friends, training partners and fierce competitors? Bolt losing twice to Yohan Blake in Jamaica’s Olympic trials could only fuel the fire. Could we seriously doubt the man who made a mockery of the Olympic record four years ago in Beijing?
He’s not your stereotypical 100-meters champion—too tall, not the most explosive out of the starting blocks and with a criticised technique. How then has he gone where no one else can go? How does he compete with these small, well-built, high-burst speed individuals? For starters, he devours ground like no other, reaching speeds of almost 30 mph. And at full tilt his stride length reaches between 2.7 to 3 meters! Combine that with supreme confidence, poise and self-assurance, and you have yourself a world-beater.
Having cemented his place in history and our hearts, those brands that had affiliated themselves so closely with him can breathe a little easier. The furor around whether he would retain his title was surely causing a few restless nights at the Virgin Media headquarters. But today, with a new Olympic record, he’s a branding dream.
Whilst Virgin has undoubtedly profited from its gamble, Nike played the long game with style. Six of the eight athletes running the 100-meters final were wearing Nike trainers, an endorsement feat in itself. How would Nike make that clear to viewers in the back row and those of us at home?
With Volt—and yes that’s a “V.”
Volt is the term used to describe that bright, greenish yellow-hued shoe that so many runners are wearing. And guess which colour the human eye is most sensitive to? Fortunately for Nike, the Volt colour scheme has been a mainstay for a huge proportion of the track and field runners throughout the 2012 Olympics.
What’s most striking about the Volt design is that the iconic “swoosh” is secondary to the bold and unique color. Some viewers may not even realize that Volt is a Nike product, at least until the next time they enter a Nike store. At that moment Olympic emotion will come flooding back as they realize that these are the shoes that great Olympians wore. This is the true power of branding.
Max Hurford is a business development associate in Siegel+Gale’s London office.