Two weeks ago, at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, we saw a show that presented Britain as it should be presented; it had heritage, it had adventure, it had humour. It was not a grand vision of Britain’s global standing, but a quirky look at a quirky nation with very strong brand values.
In two days' time, David Arnold and his team will close the world’s most watched sporting event with what is being billed as a "celebration of Britishness". Once again, Arnold promises a “slightly mischievous, inspiring and uniquely British” event.
For Britain the brand, this has been an incredible fortnight.
Aware that this is the biggest opportunity to tell the world about our story, our values, and how we view our country in the modern world, we had to get it right.
This is our advert to the world.
The Olympics, from start to finish,combined what we believe are the three essential elements of communication: Method, Magic and Emotion. Britain staged the largest, most complex international event a country can host. It was smooth, professional and beautifully executed. Their management, the Method, was worthy of the Olympics. We did ourselves proud.
The experience was, as the BBC repeated several times a day, “Magical”. From the architectural beauty of the velodrome, to the creative genius of Thomas Heatherwick’s cauldron, to the sophisticated, live stage shows, this was an event to remember.
And from this comes the Emotion. A two-week emotional rollercoaster that saw us share the pain as Mark Cavendish lost out on day one, and the pride as Jess Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford stole the show on Golden Saturday.
The world felt Team GB’s passion in their bid for gold, and we also shared in the success of other countries' stars like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.
London 2012 has been a crucial piece of brand promotion for Britain. Against a cynical backdrop of economic gloom and pre-media criticism, the population of the entire British Isles has pulled together in one proud force at the Olympics. We were all there in spirit.
Such is the extent of national pride that a Twitter debate raged between Piers Morgan and opponents on the need for Team GB’s athletes to sing the national anthem on the podium. Can you be patriotic and not sing the national anthem, he asked. Others took offence – of course they’re proud to be British, watch the tears, see the emotion. Who would’ve thought we would have come so far in two weeks?
This passion and pride in being ‘British’ is part of the legacy. The Brits have a new awareness of their own identity, and an understanding of what ‘Britishness’ means. Other countries have a clear understanding too, which is important. The tourist pound depends on it, and the business pound is reassured by it - there’s new clarity.
Everyone is also reassured that despite our skill at self-deprecation and self-criticism, we’re actually pretty good at putting together an internationally acclaimed Olympics, rated among the best. Perhaps we won’t be so hard on ourselves in future.
Tim Sharp is design director at Uniform
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