This May, Orlando Florida will host the second Invictus Games. Prince Harry’s leadership, widespread media coverage and outstanding performances from seriously wounded athletes made the inaugural Games in London a huge success.
The nation was captivated by personal stories of grit, determination, pride and self-belief. People who were ‘broken’ were surpassing achievements that not even they thought possible – achievements that ‘put the average man in the street to shame’, to paraphrase some of the commentators at the time.
When the Orlando Games begin on 8 May, there’s every likelihood they will exceed the high benchmark set in London. Injured servicemen and women will run, jump, throw, compete and achieve in ways that seem incredible in the face of the hardships they have suffered.
Talking about this with friends over a drink, someone said ‘Yes, Invictus is the most amazing brand isn’t it?’
Being an over-analytical type, I wondered if this was true. Is Invictus genuinely a brand or, is it a highly competitive event; a spectacle perhaps; or simply a collection of extraordinary people and their personal stories that say something to us?
I reckon if you asked any of the competitors what they think about being part of the ‘Invictus brand’, you would get some quizzical looks and a mixed bag of comments. On the other hand, if you asked the competing athletes to tell you about their personal stories and how they feel about being involved in the Games, you would get some compelling and profound answers.
So I’m left pondering this. Is the Invictus Games the most powerful ‘accidental brand’ in the world? You can’t control the stories of those who take part – they are what they are and all the more provocative, inspiring and effective because of that. You would feel so insincere trying to ascribe brand values to Invictus – it sits above all of that. There is nothing manufactured and there’s no way you can sell it any better than by simply letting the athletes do what they do and say what they say – a compelling combination of words and achievements that takes care of itself.
All of which leads me to the conclusion that Invictus isn’t a brand. It simply can’t be. It’s a set of beliefs, an attitude, a code or an expression of how life should be lived. A value system not a set of values.
And then the conversation moves on again to someone telling me that my phone is rubbish and I need to get an iPhone 6 because it will ‘revolutionise everything’ and is ‘the only way to live’.
So we’re straight onto Apple, arguably the biggest brand of today, and that’s a code to live life by too (apparently) and about principles as well as products.
It’s easy to see how some folk could get confused by this branding business, bordering as it does sometimes on the patently absurd ...best get another drink.
Ben Copithorne, Director