Olympics sponsor GE is using data visualization to engage the public in the gargantuan logistical underpinning involved in mounting and hosting the Olympic Games.
"What (g)oes into building an Olympic city? GE's chief marketing officer Beth Comstock tweeted from a panel discussion Monday on the future of cities at the London Olympics. "Lots of technology and big machines hidden in plain sight." Her tweet linked to GE's Building the Games interactive map, which (powered by Bing search) features GE's infrastructure work behind the scenes of London 2012.
Serving as a TOP Olympics sponsor (through 2020) has been good for GE. Reuters reported Monday that the company has made an extra $1 billion in sales because of its involvement in the event since 2005, and has sold about $100 million in "lights, power supplies and medical devices" just at the London 2012 Games.
"At the time when Beijing went for the Olympics, they invested a lot. There was just a lot more to be built and developed," Comstock commented to Reuters. "London has a much more measured approach in terms of infrastructure, but we certainly are happy that we participated."
The brand is already looking ahead to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil with a different interactive project, one that explains its brand mission while aiming to inspire a city.
While the next Summer Games will be in Rio de Janeiro, GE has launched a social campaign with colorful billboards painted on Sao Paulo buildings — the first public art permitted in five years since a law in 2007 banned outdoor advertising as visual pollution. The public/private partnership recalls GE's old tagline, "We bring good things to life."
The first three GE Gallery murals, each close to 120 feet high, appeared last week with a mysterious space left blank at the bottom – before the GE logo duly appeared. The panels by local street artists (see videos below) represent GE’s commitment to energy, health and transportation.
"The city has improved a lot because there was a lot of visual pollution before the law," said Marcello Serpa, partner and creative director at Sao Paulo agency Almap BBDO, to Ad Age. "But Sao Paulo is a gray city. It's not like Rio de Janeiro, the most beautiful city in the world. So we tried to use buildings as billboards on a huge scale, to give the city some color and bring art to the people, and to use it as a tool to subtly talk about GE products."
The public can now vote on GE Brazil's Facebook page (click here) on which artists should paint the next billboards, reflecting water and aviation, while in September, an augmented reality-enhanced panel on transportation will be added.
The Portuguese version of GE's global "Imagination at work" slogan, by the way, translates back into English as, "If you can imagine it, it can be done."