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In our final mini-poll on the 2012 Olympics, we asked our KidzEyes and TeensEyes panelists to tell us who their favorite Olympic team was. Not surprisingly, 39% of teens and 41% of kids selected the fab five – the women’s gymnastics team – as the one they most wanted to watch. These girls put on a show throughout the games. Not only did they exhibit death-defying feats, but they also brought drama to spare!

  • Jordyn Wieber, the world champ and expected all-around competition victor failed to qualify for the finals.
  • 16 year-old Gabby Douglas brought home the gold (the first African American girl to do so)
  • Aly Raisman’s parents mimed her whole routine from the stands, warranting an award of their own!
  • But along with the highlights, came some moments that made us cringe. Moments after Aly Raisman qualified for the all-around competition finals, she assured an interviewer that she never doubted that she would make the cut. But she did this within shouting distance of her teammate and friend, Wieber, whose Olympic dreams were shattered with Raisman’s rise. Yes, Raisman exhuded confidence, but what about empathy? McKayla Maroney took her silver medal with a very public smirk, not with the grace of a girl who won second place in a worldwide competition. And Gabby Douglas, when asked, on the Today Show, about how life would change, talked about how she was “trending on Twitter” and how everyone in the world knows who she is. What happened to, “I’m still the same old girl…”?

    How this team handled victory and defeat invites the question: how important does good sportsmanship matter to kids, tweens and teens today? And what role does humility play in youth’s definition of winning?

    In fairness, other Olympic athletes offered an alternative approach…

    Sticking with the girls, we saw Missy Franklin (a 17-year old high school senior) who broke down after seeing her parents post-race, noting how appreciative she was to have their support. The women’s world soccer team (who undeniably have mojo to spare!) embraced their rivals, the Japanese women. They traded in trash-talk for a different kind of discourse. Megan Rapinoe noted, “They snatched our dream last year. And still we have that respect for them.”Girls around the world learned a valuable lesson -- play hard, but maintain perspective off the field.

    But does the way that kids, tweens and teens define winning really matter for marketers? Absolutely. A few years ago, I received questions over the course of two weeks from three different clients who wanted to know what “winning” looked like for kids, tweens and teens.

  • Do they want to see an athlete’s win as the result of hard work?
  • Should you show them enduring the toughest training session, or simply show them with the trophy?
  • Is the best face of your brand the one who wins with flair or with focus?
  • And of course, ask a tween boy about their best sports moment, and you’ll hear about homeruns, not practice sessions. But, generally, when we ask this generation (often dismissed as fame-seeking and self-promoting) which celebrities they love and why they love them, we often hear them talk about character alongside championships. Granted, without a win, they wouldn’t likely make it on kids’, tweens’ and teens’ radars! But, when they talk about actors and actresses, or musicians they love, they often talk about how they do good things for others, or how they haven’t forgotten where they came from. The American Idol contestants who rise to the top are often equal parts exciting performance and appreciation for the opportunity. And, similarly, we predict that the athletes who will endure in the minds of youth will be those who are a little less arrogant and a bit more authentic. Because at the end of the day, youth want their winners with a healthy dose of humility, and they’re willing to stick with the second place finisher if they can stand-up even when they’re not on the podium.