Tokyo 2020: How athletes have built brands through engaging storytelling

By Micah Crook,

As the Olympic Games drew to a close yesterday, ending a fortnight of sport that International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach claimed “far exceeded my personal expectations”, and had been a great success. Spectators were introduced to a new generation of athletes, crucial in propelling the games forward, whilst creating an identity for brands and consumers to interact with through engaging storytelling.

Since Rio 2016, and the subsequent technological advancements of social media. The IOC pondered over how to attract Gen Z’s into watching the Tokyo 2020 games. With their worries displayed to the world for all to see, the International Olympic Committee strategically added five new sports to the 2020 program in a bid to modernise and appeal to a younger audience.

With an Olympics shy of personalities like Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Michael Phelps. Coupled with Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce closing in on retirement, it was time for some new faces to take centre stage.

Sports like skateboarding and surfing with naturally younger audiences offered an opportunity for younger, more relatable athletes to make a name for themselves and share their stories.

These compelling athlete stories also provide brands with an opportunity to collaborate with sports stars that emerge as headline makers.

Despite the lack of crowds at Tokyo 2020 due to the pandemic, athletes themselves have built strong followings, gaining traction on social media as they document their Olympic journey. 

TikTok has been the perfect conduit for fans to get a glimpse of life inside the Athletes’ Village and the feeling of winning a medal. There have been an astronomical 7.4bn views of videos under the #Olympics tag and 5.4bn on videos with the #OlympicSpirit topic. 

The official Olympics TikTok account has amassed 3.6 million followers and shares snippets of officially licensed footage that needless to say, goes viral. 

The Games emerging stars

British Skateboarder, and youngest ever Team GB medallist Sky Brown has built a following of over 1.4 million, sharing accommodation tours, her thoughts on the games and performing viral dance routines. 

@skybrown

The view tho ❤️🌇🌉 ##olympicvillage ##olympics ##skybrown

♬ original sound – 𝗪𝗶𝗻𝗼𝘀 𝗦𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗱 – Mutiny Squad

While Diver Tom Daley has also been updating his 3m Instagram followers, with his quirky hobby, knitting. Sharing images of a union jack medal cosy keeping his Gold unscratched, as well as a nifty Team GB themed jacket.

Some have seen the funny side, as rumours swirled around the Olympic Village bed-frames being made of cardboard to prevent Olympians from having sex. Argentinian basketball players Fran Caffaro and Tayavek Gallizzi saw it as a perfect opportunity to test the beds’ durability, by jumping on them. The first meme to go viral during the games.

@caffarof

Trying the Olympic cardboard beds with 480 pounds ✅ ##olympics ##olympics2020 ##olympics2021 ##tokyo ##tokyo2020 ##tokyo2021 ##argentina ##arg ##basketball

♬ Ball If I Want To – DaBaby

Whilst Olympians are considered pop culture celebrities, the brands that they are building for themselves, allow them to also operate as social influencers due to their direct channels of communication with followers. 

For brands aiming to leverage the power of athlete influencers, partnering with the right athletes is crucial. If done well, they will prove to be a successful medium to resonate with consumers and deliver for brands. 

To talk to us about how brands and athletes can collaborate successfully, get in touch.