I really enjoyed the 2012 London Olympics. It’s the first Olympics I’ve watched with the kids and that has made it extra special. Even though they don’t understand the games fully, they love the competition. My 9-year-old son especially.

Watching the whole spectacle unfold has made me reflect on what I don’t like about what the Olympics has become. Here are the marketing lessons that I learnt:

1. Don’t be the brand police

Before the start of the games there were over 20,000+ journalists in London, without a game’s story to file. It didn’t take long for the brand police stories to roll out. This is due to the fact that the Olympic movement has the power legally to enforce only those who are official supporters within a certain perimeter around the games village and stadium. The brand police are there to ‘protect’ the image of the Olympics and sponsors interests, and to stamp out anyone pretenders, including local businesses.

The Olympics were in danger of being perceived over the top enforcers going too far in the name of protecting their sponsors and own interests. The Olympics for a short time became something it didn’t want to become. A big fat valuable brand (2nd most valuable brand in the world after Apple) that put sponsors first and common sense a distant second. Lesson: Don’t get known for something you are not.

This isn’t just about organisations and their audiences. It also applies to those working on staff in marketing or communications. We have to be careful not to become the enforcers when it comes to brand management with other staff, but rather be an influencer. We become influencers by working alongside colleagues and helping them achieve their goals, rather than being only concerned about the whether the logo was reproduced according to the corporate guidelines. We have to invest in them and spend time hearing about why they are so passionate about what they do and what success looks like for them. Don’t get known for something you are not.

2. Keep the main thing – the main thing

It’s about the athletes and Olympic games. It always has been. Always will be.

Yet at the start of the Olympic Games it seemed like it was about anything but the games itself. Sponsors, technology, glamour and personalities.

If you work in a church. Your message has been and always will be about Jesus. Don’t get sidetracked by the hype or by things that are cool or creativity as an end in itself. Keep Jesus and His timeless message front and central. How you communicate that message and tell your church’s story should be at the forefront of what you do.

If you work in a non-profit your core reason for existing should always be front and central. I’ve seen many good non-profits dilute their incredible work by being distracted and becoming involved with initiatives that are great causes, but not why they became who they are. Don’t try to be someone else. Keep your focus sharp.

Did you have any takeaways from the Olympics? Or do you have an opinion about what I’ve written? Comment below.