Our View From Inside the Olympic Games Bubble

August 15, 2016

Even though this is my 13th Olympic Games, each experience is unique. I’m proud to be here with a record number of Ketchum colleagues on-site from 10 cities around the world (and our partners at MMC) to staff six different client programs.

We’re managing everything from press events to athlete services. We’re in the Olympic Village, we’re in the sponsor parks, we’re in the main media centers. While you’re seeing beautiful coverage in your home countries around the world, here is what the view inside the bubble looks like from an insider’s point of view! (click to tweet).

WhatsApp, Brazil?!WhatsApp

With each Olympic Games we get a new indispensable technology that we honestly can’t imagine life without, and this is it! Just days before the start of the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil’s chief justice ordered the WhatsApp service be restored after a brief ban on the messaging service. To call it our lifeline would not be an understatement. We are now using it for all day to day communications including issues management, social sharing and updates AND for ALL phone calls worldwide. I can envision a time when this is the only form of communication we use in the course of a day at work and play. What a difference it has made. From the moment we arrived here, WhatsApp became the #1 survival tool and a verb! First you get Whatsapp’d to notify you that your greeter and car is waiting for you after customs—and then it begins: You’re invited into big groups, sub groups, friend groups, mission critical operations groups.  You actually feel an immature sense of FOMO if you’re left off a group!!


Sofia Ramos monitoring the news from home around the clock; Steph McDonald and Kerry Ruggieri FaceTiming to keep Rio and the US connected.

The Olympic Bubble:

I cannot underscore enough how critical it is to have a strong onsite/offsite team. Things on the ground are so chaotic that it’s very hard, if not impossible, to keep track of the news. For one thing we are watching Brazilian TV, which is great because it’s uninterrupted coverage of the Games on multiple channels. But at the same time, it is challenging as a communicator as there’s no news filtering through the local coverage and, as a result, we just cannot scan the news regularly enough. Those of us on the ground have a hard timing knowing what stories and personalities are popping up around the world. It really underscores the importance of our in market teams—many of whom are working around the clock to match the Rio team’s crazy schedule. Keep that in mind for other global events you might be participating in.

Get on The Bus, Or Train As the Case May Be:

Clients, media and teams alike have been hampered by above ground traffic during the Games. It does, however, present an opportunity to experience the local culture via Rio’s mass transit system. I find that learning more about a local culture always helps communications stay on target and authentic.

Lane.jpgWe took the brand new underground train to Olympic Park the other day. It was clean, fast, and the most stress-free way to get there.  They did some cool Olympic-themed branding in the station near our hotel—like the swimming pool designed floor pictured here. Interestingly, there were train cars designated for women-only during rush hour. According to Wikipedia this has been in place since 2006 and is something many cities have, which seems both useful and unfortunate that it’s necessary.

Rio de Janeiro is a melting pot both in terms of the athletes and nations represented in the Olympic Village and Ketchum teams on the ground from offices including: Atlanta, Dusseldorf, Boston, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Sao Paulo, Seoul and Washington D.C.  This team is working crazy hours with Olympic-size energy and passion, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a member of this delegation.

Team Ketchum

Team Ketchum celebrating another great day at #P&GFamilyHome (client*).

Ann Wool is a Partner and President of Ketchum Sports & Entertainment and Ketchum Influencer. Ann counsels clients around the world on high-profile campaigns that build and protect brand reputation through sport and entertainment. A veteran of 13 Olympic Games and countless award-winning campaigns, she has been integral to some of the most influential moments in sports and entertainment marketing. For Ketchum Influencer, Ann created an agency wide approach to working with influencers of every level, including evolving technologies the agency uses and establishing a rigorous identification, vetting, partnership, content co-creation and evaluation model for every campaign that utilizes influencers. She is often quoted in influential media and was recognized by Sports Business Journal in 2012 as a Game Changer in sports and by PR Week as part of the Champions of PR in 2016.