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The Olympic Standard of Political Advertising

The Olympic Standard of Political Advertising

iModerate Author

Aug 03, 2012

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With the Olympics kicking off, we’ve heard a lot of commentary about the type of political advertising that should run while the event is taking place.  A recent article in the New York Times highlights the precedent that has been set for political ads during the 2012 London Olympics— political messages should coincide with the uplifting spirit of the Olympics. In fact, the article tells us, research done by NBC has shown that viewers of the 2012 London Olympics don’t even want to see negative advertisements.

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics there were political commercials that aired, one of which was rendered as an attack ad stemming from the McCain campaign. Even though the ad was considered to be effective (it’s the one that tried to label Obama as being a “celebrity”), many people found the timing of the ad to be distasteful. The Olympics are about being competitive while maintaining a reserve that embodies humility.

And, I must agree that it only makes sense that in light of the presidential election, our politicians follow examples set by Olympic athletes.

Olympic athletes and presidential candidates share some striking similarities. Just as Olympic athletes are competing for the highest honor an athlete can achieve (a gold medal), presidential candidates are competing for the highest honor an elected official can achieve (the presidency). Team USA is a manifestation of what we as a country idolize. In The United States, in particular, the values which shape our national identity parallel that of an Olympic athlete and the ideal President: a strong work ethic, dedication, humility, tenacity, determination, and a deep sense of patriotism. While incredibly gifted, you seldom hear Olympic athletes boast about their talents in ways that aim to cut down their opponents. Although competitive, most Olympic athletes generally refrain from trash talk; the Olympic Games are supposed to unite, not divide.

During his farewell address, George Washington warned against the creation of political parties in fear that they would create divisiveness. By no means is having two dominant political parties necessarily a bad thing. However there is something to be said about President Washington’s warning during the Olympic season. At the end of the day, Republican or Democrat, we’re all Americans. In the spirit of the Olympic Games there is an opportunity for presidential campaigns to take a break from the traditional mud-slinging, if only momentarily, in acknowledgement that despite our differences we are all a part of Team USA.

iModerate Author

  • Jon

    I like your comparison between athletes and candidates! Well written and looking forward to more.

  • Mora

    Awesome article and analogy! I hope the presidential candidates see this and reflect on keeping their campaigns in the spirit of the Olympics. Can’t wait to see your next article.

  • Ben

    The issue is that while studies may show that people don’t want to see negative advertisements, studies also show that those ads are more effective than positive ones. Until positive ads are proven to be more successful than negative, political candidates will continue to use what works.

  • +1 to what Ben said. People like good sportsmanship in the Olympics because the Olympics make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy, whereas in political discourse it’s rare to find citizens being kind to each other about their disagreements. Unrelated, I read your dog’s name as “Benadryl” and I was absolutely about to give that name a standing ovation. Bandit is a good name, too, though!

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