How did the sponsors do in Rio?

23 Aug 2016

If Rio 2016 were a colour, what would it be? Blue would probably spring to mind for a lot of athletics fans as they recall the sea of unoccupied seats as well as the striking azure of the track itself. Somewhere on the list might be luminous yellow and red. Remember the men’s 1500m final when all but one man were wearing the same spikes? In fact, the same style of spikes you saw all the medallists in the 100m hurdles wearing. And most of the field in the women’s 800m final.

We have tallied up two alternative medals tables based on sports brands. One looks at the spikes worn (the athlete’s choice and perhaps a personal sponsor) and the other at the vest worn during the medal-winning performance (ie, the national team sponsor).

Medals by brands worn


Nike absolutely dominated. Its luminous footwear was an ever presence across all events in both track and field. Athletes wearing Nike spikes got over four and half times more medals than its nearest rival, Adidas. Puma, in third, seems to have opted for quality above quantity: its four medals come from its multi-million dollar deals with Bolt and De Grasse.

Puma fared better with vests, with its sponsorship of the Jamaica team a key contributing factor. But Nike remains dominant here with its noteworthy support of the USA, Kenya and Canada.

Clearly a good Olympics for Nike, which was also a “tier three” Olympic sponsor this year. But what about the athletes? It’s hard to tell how many of these athlete adorning themselves in its gear are actually sponsored (ie, receive money) from Nike. Or whether we have witnessed an opportunistic mass “kit drop” which has completely out-done all of its competitors.

“Running is where we started”, Greg Hoffman, Nike’s chief marketing officer told Quartz, “so track and field always is always special to us, especially on a global stage here [in Rio].” Nike can firmly claim that it is the most committed sports brand to track and field on this medal-related performance. The risk for the sport is over-reliance and undue influence: as it stands athletics needs Nike more than Nike needs athletics.

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