Olympics 2012 – Medals vs Mettle

So the London 2012 Olympics have ended and the final medal tally is in[i]. Ranked purely by the number of medals won, the top three are: United States (104), China (88) and Russia (82). But does this single figure accurately represent the sporting achievements of a nation?

For example, how do the medals won by the top three nations compare to the medals won by  a much smaller and less populous Jamaica (12)?. While the gap in the number of medals won is large, immediately declaring that Jamaica did not do as well as the top three would be doing Bolt & co a disserviceas the quantity and quality of sporting resources available to countries differ dramatically. Similarly, Spain and Brazil won an equal number of medals (17). But did they do equally well when you take note of the fact that the population of Brazil is more than four times that of Spain?[ii] To answer these questions, we would need to analyse the medal tally in the context of the resources at the disposal of each of the countries.

This approach is uncannily similar to a comparison we at Brandscapes, frequently perform with brands and organisations. A large brand may operate across categories and sub-categories with its products. But does it perform equally well across all the categories or do the numbers, like in the case of the Olympic medals tally, hide more than they reveal till you stop looking at them in isolation and bring in market context. One of the techniques used in such instances is Fair Share analysis where the expected Fair Share of the market (or medals!) is calculated and compared to the actual performance. Then and only then can the brand be said to truly outperform or underperform.

Coming back to the London Olympics, let’s also examine the impact of another variable on the medal tally, GDP. Higher the GDP, more a country can invest in sports programmes and infrastructure[iii]. Many would attribute China’s increasing medals tally over the years to a similar increase in its GDP.

Let’s see if Fair Share Analysis can be used to arrive at the expected medal tally for some of the countries using population and GDP as the independent variables. Conveniently, the BBC has conducted just such an exercise in association with Meghan Busse from the Kellogg School of Management, NU and published the following results –

Some observations based on the table:

  • The success of US, Russia and China cannot be dismissed purely on the basis of their high population and GDP figures as all of them substantially exceed their fair share.

  • Some part of the performance of GB & NI can be attributed to the ‘Host Nation effect’ which manifests itself in stronger performance by host nations

  • The exalted position of sports in Australian culture means that it has surpassed its fair share even in a performance that many Australians have considered disappointing!

  • Jamaica and Kenya have truly outperformed with neither expected to win any medals on the basis of their population and GDP shares. They’ve done that by dominating specific sports like Sprints (Jamaica) and Marathons (Kenya).

  • India, Indonesia and Mexico top the medal deficit table in a pattern which seems to place populous nations with low GDP per capita at a disadvantage at the Olympics.

So while the three champions do well on the Fair Share analysis, the performance of countries like Jamaica and Kenya needs to be looked at with more respect keeping in mind the ‘market context’. The analysis also places the unprecedented performance of the Indian contingent in sharp contrast with its Fair Share.

Similarly, a better perspective can be gained on brand performance by incorporating market context, competitive landscape and its own performance across categories, consumer segments and geographies, leading to truly Winning Insights™.

P.S.: I’m sure other variables can be added to the calculation of Fair Share to make it more robust. What other variables do you think have an impact on a nation’s performance at the Olympics? Perhaps we can build a model which can be used for a similar comparison at Rio 2016. 🙂

 This blog post is written by Amit Bhanot, Insight Consultant – Shopper & Retail, Brandscapes Worldwide. Apart from chasing shopper insights, Amit likes to read, read and read some more.

Email :- amit.bhanot@brandscapesworldwide.com

References –

About Brandscapes Worldwide

Brandscapes specializes in marketing analytics and insight consulting for consumer goods, services and the retail sectors. We leverage the power of advanced data mining tools and the practical marketing and communication planning expertise to distil actionable marketing insights.
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7 Responses to Olympics 2012 – Medals vs Mettle

  1. radha arakkal says:

    good blog post amit. some variables that come to mind are absolute investment and % of GDP invested in sports, average number of years of training for Olympics participants, number of international events that participants have been to, total sports sponsorship in the country…

    i dont know if there is any quantitative measure of parents encouraging their kids to take up sports as a career. what is needed is a sports-tuned attitude for the nation as a whole which is non-existent in India except for cricket. its chicken and egg situation- do the sponsors come first or do the bolt-like stars come first, so that sponsors are forced to invest?

  2. We could approach Ministry of HRD and/or Ministry of Sports to grant us a 4-year project the objective of which would be to design a model as described above 🙂 Really interesting read. You got all of us thinking about something new. You got my attention in the third paragraph.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Bhawana says:

    We could explore the impact of variables like Literacy and Educational Infrastructure ( assuming Sports would b encouraged after education needs are met) in a country. Also wonder if even within a country – does the penetration/ development of education correlate with achievement in sports?

  4. Surabhi Jain says:

    I don’t think that only after education needs are met can sports be encouraged. Like we have educational universities in India where students indulge in sports as an extra curricular activity, countries like China have Sports Universities where the students mainly focus on their sport as well as receive a basic education. I think “Sports Infrastructure and Facilities” provided by a government directly relates to the number of sportspeople a country churns out.

  5. http://www.economist.com/node/21562201

    This might not be related to what this article talks about. However, this article (link above) reminded me of Amit’s blog. The ‘chicken-and-egg’ that Amit talked about as a conclusion to his blog are, I believe applicable for the differently abled sportsmen as well.

  6. http://www.afaqs.com/community/blog/233_Bolt-and-the-4R%27s-of-branding

    This is a very professional blog on Bolt. Relevant only because of the approach – Olympics interpreted by a brand manager.

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