Rebrand Review – Rio Olympics 2016

This month we review the Rio 2016 branding. This is a little bit of a cheat as the Olympics have to change their brand every 4 years, depending on which country they are being held in. However, we thought we would focus on this because of the recent controversies (think London 2012 Olympic and more recently the dispute over the Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo).


‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’, is the Latin for ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ and was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin as a motto on the creation of the International Olympic committee in 1894. Pierre de Coubertin later designed the ‘Olympic Rings’ symbol in 1912. According to Courbertin, the rings represented the colours that appeared on all the national flags of the countries competing in the Olympic Games at that time, including white, which was the background colour.

The Games had to be suspended because of the outbreak of World War 1 but the symbol and now flag, would officially debut at the Belgium Games in 1920. Olympic logos started to appear from the 1920’s with the first one we could find from the Paris Summer Olympics in 1924.


There have been many colourful variations of Olympic logos over the decades and as the years have gone on, more effort and thought has been put into them – as well as more competition to design them! Well, who wouldn’t want to design the Olympic logo, especially for your own country! The Olympics is the biggest event on the planet and the logo is seen worldwide – which opens up any designs to much praise and/or criticism.


Although the London 2012 Olympic logo had much criticism, the Games themselves were a huge success and the opening ceremony was something else! Following that, the world has high expectations for Rio 2016.

Rio based agency ‘Tatil’, designed the new Olympic 2016 logo, having been selected from 8 finalists after competing with over 100 others. The logo itself is easily recognisable for what it is – people embracing in unity.

Or is it? At first glance you can see 3 people holding hands but when you understand how the logo came about, you realise it revolves around the culture, history and geography of Rio, which makes the logo much more interesting and meaningful. One of Rio’s main attractions is ‘Sugarloaf Mountain’ and the logo can be viewed as 3 people embracing the city, which includes ‘Sugarloaf Mountain’ – all in motion. It can spell out the word ‘Rio’ and the colours used are representative of Brazil’s environment, yellow-sun, blue-water and green-forest.


Whist it is an attractive logo and all the branding surrounding it looks amazing, have they played it a bit safe, appealing to the majority of people who will see it immediately and understand what it is regardless of any other deeper meaning?

It has had some comparisons to another logo (Telluride Foundation) and also to a Henri Matisse Painting ‘The Dance’ but unlike the 2012 London logo, which caused a more ‘either you love it or hate it’ mentality with the public or with the original Toyko 2020 logo, which has now been pulled altogether due to a plagiarism row, the Rio logo has done it’s job and seems to be gaining respect and popularity especially with it getting more exposure leading up to the games next year!