Losing Points On The World Stage
09 September 2016
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With the close of the 2016 Rio Olympics, we are once again left with that 'what now' sensation. Naturally, the media has been quick to fill the gap, diverting our attention to scandalous Olympic moments. From broken bones to glistening Togolese flag-bearers, there has been no shortage of trivia to keep the Olympic fever going.

While we impatiently await the start of the 2016 Paralympics, one particular controversy continues to swirl around the tracksuits sported by the South African Athletes both on the 'field' and at the opening ceremony. The Chinese manufactured tracksuits were the subject of harsh criticism and mockery on social media, with many questioning why more culturally significant or at the very least, better fitting outfits had not been made for our athletes. Sports journalist Graeme Joffe went so far as to tweet: "Cheap, nasty tracksuits for an opening ceremony is an irony of how Olympic sport is run in SA."

And as our Paralympians proudly took part in the opening ceremony - like a recurring nightmare, we are faced with the reminder of how badly both our athletes and country have been let down by the 'Ninja Turtle' uniform. Another onslaught of social media 'ragging' is certainly on the cards.

When the task of manufacturing the South African uniforms was awarded to 361 Clothing - a Chinese company specialising in "customized fashion clothing for consumers" - many South Africans openly expressed their disappointment. Fachmy Abrahams of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) underscored the general sentiment when he said that an opportunity for nation building had been missed.

The response to the uniforms reinforces the magnitude of branding responsibility. The Olympics are more than 16 days of physical spectacle - each athlete, team and supporter carries their nation's pride and patriotism to the world stage. The opportunity a platform such as this affords can never be underestimated. All the more reason to question the lack of thought and effort displayed in the South African uniforms.

Following the Paralympics opening ceremony, no doubt the questions will recur... Why did we not use the opportunity to showcase one of South Africa's many multi-talented designers, why did we not take advantage of our magnificent array of colours, or at the very least highlight the rainbow nation? Are we really more concerned with 'the cheapest deal' than the value of our brand? The organising body has let us down - as the brand custodian they neither elevated nor honoured brand South Africa. And in the world of marketing, communications and branding, that is an unpardonable sin.

By Tyla Baker
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