The Olympics and other sporting events have boosted Jamaica's brand presence. In fact, it's a textbook case for destinations seeking to gain a higher profile internationally.
"It was not by design. It evolved organically," shared Philip Rose, Regional Director Canada, Jamaica Tourist Board in a recent conversation.
For decades, Jamaican-born athletes have dominated international track and field events at the Olympics. Of course there is Usain Bolt but let's not forget Merlene Ottey, who competed in the Olympics for decades for Jamaica and Slovenia, and Jamaican-born Donovan Bailey who broke the world record in the 100-meter dash while running for Canada. Sprinters have ensured an on-going Jamaican presence on the world stage.
In fact, this nation with a population of just under 3 million has won 55 Olympics medals; 52 of them have been for sprinting. Even former Jamaican Prime Minister Norman Washington Manley, a founder of the Jamaica Olympic Association, was a world-class sprinter. At the 2012 Olympics in London, Jamaican athletes are also competing in swimming and equestrian events.
Brand Jamaica has also benefited from Jamaica's unexpected participation in events at the Winter Olympics like bobsledding and ski-cross. Jamaica's involvement in high-profile dogsledding competitions like Iditarod has received widespread publicity.Brand Jamaica: Destination Marketing Lessons
The key elements that have converged to build Jamaica's brand presence through Olympics and other sporting events underscore the importance of thinking outside the box:
Celebrities: The highly anticipated events in which Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell will be participating are creating a lot of buzz with media outlets around the world.
Icons: Usain Bolt made the "to the world" pose recognizable internationally and this has been integrated into Jamaica's marketing campaigns.
Fashion: Jamaica's 2012 Olympic team uniforms were designed by Cedella Marley, one of reggae superstar Bob Marley's daughters, and manufactured by Puma. The designs incorporated Bob Marley theming, another key brand Jamaica ingredient. Time Magazine picked them as one of its favorite uniforms.
Soccer Clothing & Accessories: Pardon the pun but Reggae Boyz soccer jerseys and Puma's running shoes in the colors of the Jamaican flag (black, gold and green) have been "runaway" best sellers.
Social Media: The #teamjamaica hashtag was trending on Twitter on opening night. Many of Jamaica's Olympic athletes have been busy tweeting and releasing YouTube profiles and clips of the team kicking back at the Olympic village.
Training Centre: The Usain Bolt Training Centre in Kingston, Jamaica has been funded by Puma.
Pop-up Event Venue: Jamaica House, the O2, will open a few days into the 2012 Olympics and also coincide with the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's Independence.
Music: One Love was a popular Bob Marley song. The Jamaica Tourist Board has been using it to market brand Jamaica since 1994. Jamaica, Guh Haad an' Done (Go Hard and Done), the official reggae theme song for the Jamaican Olympic team, went viral on YouTube almost as soon as it was uploaded. It reinforces support among reggae fans and in the important teen and young adult markets.
"Let's not underestimate the tenacity of the Jamaican spirit. That has a lot to do with it," Philip Rose emphasized, citing the determination of the Jamaican Bobsleigh team when they were told they couldn't do it.
Together, these elements have garnered more press coverage than any destination could purchase through a PR budget. Jamaica has received far more effective exposure than expensive prime-time TV commercials could provide. While not by design, a strong, integrated and distinctly Jamaican brand personality has emerged in the global marketplace.
As I discussed with Philip Rose, sometimes, the most innovative marketing comes from "out of the blue." Sporting events may not be the key for all destinations, however, it is important for tourist boards and convention bureaus to recognize, seize and build on the opportunities that do arise.
The Jamaica Tourist Board @visitjamaicanow has recognized the elements that are shaping Brand Jamaica and it is exploring new sports tourism opportunities. For example, the bobsled attraction in Ocho Rios was inspired by Jamaica's participation in bobsledding in the Olympics. World-class polo and equestrian facilities have been available for some time. Jamaica has hosted marathons and running events. Canadian soccer teams were recently welcomed at Jakes, a boutique hotel that Cvent Event Blog has previously profiled, and the 15-acre, world-class, Breds Treasure Beach Sports Park and Academy on the south coast.
Meeting and event planners can look forward to new sports-related event venues and attractions in Jamaica.