The inside track on Rio 2016

Having been a sponsor of the Olympic Games for the past 10 years, GE, have ambitious plans for their role in this year's event in Rio de Janeiro

The Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro will be the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Image: Daniel Basil/Portal da Copa


With all eyes on Rio come August 5 – the kick-off day for the Olympic Games 2016 – its many official sponsors will be hoping for a successful event – as well as for a political climate more stable than today’s. Serge Giacomo, director of communications and public affairs at GE Latin America, shared with us what his company have planned for before, during and after this global event.

GE has been partner of the Olympic Games since Torino, in 2006. Ten years on, GE has made a major sponsorship investment in Rio 2016. How do both parties benefit from such a partnership?

Our work for Rio 2016 started in 2011. Since then, GE has already achieved the target of 100 business projects related to the Games. With more to come, these projects are already a great opportunity to showcase GE Store and Digital Industrial, considering that among these 100 projects we have solutions in Power, Healthcare, Energy, GRC and Current. GE is bringing innovation and technology from all these businesses to provide world-class digital solutions to make Rio 2016 successful. The breadth and depth of GE technology and innovation to be displayed at the Rio Games is a testament to the power of the GE Store, which quickly marshaled expertise to work on projects ranging from electrical systems for the broadcast operations to electronic medical records for all 10,500 athletes.

900 million viewers are said to have tuned into the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. How will GE greet viewers of this year’s opener on August 5?

Every single spectator watching the opening event around the globe will be somehow connected to GE: we have won the lighting solution project for the Maracanã stadium, one of the most famous sports arenas in the world where the ceremony will take place.

The International Broadcast Center, also known as the heart of Olympic Games, will broadcast more than 5000 hours to five billion people worldwide. And GE has delivered the entire electrical distribution infrastructure for it through the collaboration of four P&Ls, reinforcing once again the power of the GE Store.  Industrial Solutions led the project, Power Conversion build the panels, Intelligent Platforms did the automation and Grid Solutions supplied the protection relays.

GE also has various solutions in some of the main competition arenas, such as Carioca 1, 2, 3, Velodrome and Tennis Centre. And GE has contributed to build a sustainable headquarter for Rio 2016, providing it with the most advanced LED technologies.

GE's Digital Industrial expertise is also at work in partnership with the Brazilian Canoe Federation. GE's sponsorship of the Federation goes far beyond a traditional brand visibility through financial support. Our scientists in Rio have developed an app that collects and analyzes real-time data from both athletes and vessels to help coaches optimize athletes’ training and improve their performance. This sponsorship is an intelligent way to showcase how GE can improve productivity and results, helping position GE as the industrial software and app expert in Brazil.

What about during the games themselves?

During Rio 2016, GE also will help take care of all athletes. For most of them, the biggest fear is not failing to win a gold medal but falling victim to a last-minute injury that destroys years of hard work and endless hours of practice. But doctors working with big data and cloud-based software are competing to make those heart-breaking injuries less likely. Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be using a cloud-based version of GE Healthcare’s Centricity Practice Solutions  as the official electronic medical records keeper. For the first time ever, the IOC is moving these records into the cloud eliminating the need to ship pallets of paper around the globe in order to monitor athletes’ health. The technology will be available at all medical posts throughout the Games and at the central clinic in the Olympic Village where doctors can deliver more complex care.

The Games are not only about competition and athletes’ performance. Just as important, it is also about transformation; a unique opportunity to help make the host city a better place for its own residents after the Games. GE has committed to help achieve this by offering relevant Legacy gifts to Rio’s population in Healthcare and LED-lighting solutions, by offering world-class diagnosis equipment to Rio’s central public hospital and upgrading the lighting systems of Rio’s main public park and historic district.

In particular the #OsJogosJáComeçaram campaign puts a digital focus on GE involvement with the Olympics. What is the strategy behind this?

For GE, the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016 started in 2011. Our challenge is to show the stakeholders how the solutions developed by the company in various sectors positively impact society and, more specifically, the infrastructure of Rio.

GE #OsJogosJáComeçaram - Fã from ATOMO vfx on Vimeo.

Unlike the other partners of the IOC, whose products are consumed directly by the public, GE is business to business  and this is a long-term process. Therefore, we invest in digital platforms. The first step took place five years ago, when it launched the blog GE Reports Brazil. Then came the social platforms, with channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn as @GEdoBrasil.

In 2015, we launched our first major campaign on social media and sent the message to Brazil that to GE, the Games had already begun. We disclose the solutions implemented in Rio to materialize that this is a legacy for the city. One of the initiatives was also promote online discussion boards through branded content Caminhos Para o Futuro. Via YouTube are broadcast debates about legacy experts, city, technology, health, etc. The engagement of the audience was greater than that assumed by the channel as excellent (with an average time of two minutes). Showing just 3D projects on social networks is not enough, it must prove that the projects are actually happening.

Do the current political and corruption scandals dominating the media in Brazil make it difficult to communicate positive messages?

Absolutely  not. We continuously generate good news, and the Games remain very important for the country. With this approach, we already have reached more than 400 articles regarding GE and Olympics, with 30 million people impacted.

Serge Giacomo also sits on the jury of the Latin-American Excellence Awards, a celebration of the best in Latin-American corporate communications and public relations and which is co-hosted by Communication Director. The highlight of the Latin American Excellence Awards is the winners day in Rio de Janeiro on 14 April 2016, where communications professionals come together to celebrate the best in PR over the last year. The winner's day will include a symposium and a dinner: you can book your tickets here.


Serge Giacomo

Serge Giacomo is director of communications and public affairs at GE Latin America. He has more than 25 years of professional experience in public and corporate affairs, corporate advertising, social responsibility, crisis communication management, events management and media relations. During his career, he has developed a broad experience across a range of relevant industries and has led multinational and multicultural teams. Prior to joining GE in March 2014, Serge was the head of corporate communications for Vale S.A., based in Rio de Janeiro. Before that, he held a number of communications positions at Shell, both in France and in The Netherlands, and at two leading global public relations firms, Edelman and Burson-Marsteller in various offices in Europe, US and Brazil.