There's something really special about an Olympic Gold medalist. They have the power to inspire us to achieve our greatest goals, no matter how much a stretch those goals may seem. They've committed most of their lives to one very specific thing, and that focus has required the removal of other obstacles, distractions, and other opportunities for success. I know many Olympic athletes who put off school, romance or a well-paying job to chase their dreams.
Jon Montgomery is Canada's 4th Gold medalist at Vancouver 2010, and while I'm proud of all of our medalists, there is something different and awesome about Montgomery that I have to acknowledge. So many of the over-referenced, over-played personal brands that fill our tabloids seem to gain notoriety because of scandalous behavior or gratuitous plays for publicity. Olympic athletes bring a certain purity of purpose that is so energizing, and ultimately do more for motivating us to be our best selves.
After winning the Gold in skeleton yesterday, Montgomery commented on what led to his success: the right training, confidence, and some pretty perfect runs. After today's medal ceremony he talked more about his journey to gold, saying "it was pretty realistic for me to quit, but I never believed that". So far, this doesn't sound too unusual for an Olympic athlete. What's so unique about Jon is that he adds an awesome personality to the mix.
First of all, he's a skeleton racer: one of the craziest, most risky sports around. Second, he's a car salesman and auctioneer by day, hailing from a tiny town in Manitoba (a colder Minnesota). When he walked through Whistler village last night, surrounded by friends and family, he strutted like he owned the place. When someone passed him a pitcher of beer, he accepted it gladly and drank without missing a step, proceeding to auction his Gold Medal Pitcher to the crowd mid-way through the interview. Best Gold moment: at tonight's victory ceremony, Jon leaned down to brush the podium off before jumping onto it and punching his fists in the air with joy.
Before you overdose on Canadian mush here, I'll get to my point. We need a whole lot more Jon Montgomery in Canada.
It's already in us, but we need to celebrate it when we see it, and build it into everything we do: the risk-taking attitude, the resilience against adversity, the ability to focus on something and do it exceptionally well, and importantly, the confidence to embrace our one-of-a-kind, wacky personality. I have seen far too many Canadian brands buckle under pressure from international competitors or diversify to the point of dilution in fear of losing relevance against leading brands. I have seen marketing teams that hesitate when faced with the opportunity to go to market as a bold, ambitious brand, because it would require real guts and confidence to get there. In many ways, we're a country full of challenger brands and we have to push ourselves if we have any hope of becoming strong global brands.
Back to Montgomery: he's topping my list of personal brands that are medal worthy, because he's intelligent for his focus and dedication; imaginative for being decidedly different and true to his character on and off camera; inspiring for his ability to embrace risk and adversity.Who do you think is an Olympic people brand?