PROJECT | Brands, Myths, Stories post Rio 2016

Reimaging Brazilian cities | Urban images and cultural narratives in the wake of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

The British Academy has allocated a Newton Fund grant for a year-long project collaboration between Dr Beatriz Garcia and a team of researchers at the University of Sao Paulo, led by Professor Paulo Nassar.

The project assesses the impact of mediated cultural representations on the “brand” of Brazil and its two main cities (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo) in the wake of the 2016 Olympic Games.


The Olympic Games is a mega-event with global outreach regularly attracting the largest concentration of media audiences across the 200+ nations taking part in the sporting competitions. This provides an unrivalled opportunity for organisers (and their critics) to project images of the host city and nation as well as raise debate abound what different communities of interest view as meaningful and representative narratives of the place they live in. 

The event organisers are expected to capture and reflect these narratives in order to showcase a coherent (and positive) ‘brand image’ of the host community for global media consumption. However, the aspiration to create a unifying cultural narrative is always fraught with contestation, both at the local city level, where contradicting voices and story-angles compete for attention; and at the national level, where specific and rapidly-changing city-interests and identities may clash with broader state-led narratives.

Research Objectives

The purpose of this project is to reveal if the huge investments of both money and human resources to organise a mega-event have some durable impact on the image of the host city and country and if so which impact is this. 

Specifically, we will analyse the impact of the 2016 Olympic Games on perceptions of Brazil and its two leading urban centres from a cultural and creative industries perspective. The project will also result in a new research link between academic institutions in the UK and Brazil.


We will focus on the analysis of official written and visual materials, using the following techniques and documentary sources:
i)culture and communications policy analysis of the key strategic frameworks and guidelines for event marketing and cultural programming as established by the International Olympic Committee and interpreted/adapted by the local organising committee (OCOG) in Rio de Janeiro;

ii)brand analysis, based on the documentary assessment of official marketing and promotional materials created by the OCOG to project Rio de Janeiro and Brazil as Olympic hosts;

iii)content analysis of Brazil, Rio and Sao Paulo references (brand images) as represented within national and international Olympic sponsors’ campaigns in the lead up to and during the Games fortnight

iv)media content analysis of references the cultural identity and cultural aspirations of Rio, Sao Paulo and Brazil in the context of the 2016 Games, with a focus on a selection of Brazilian press and UK press .

Knowledge Transfer

The project will open an opportunity for long- term collaboration between the UK’s leading researcher on mega-event cultural impacts and Olympic cultural policy-making, and a team of Brazil’s leading international public relations and narratives researchers. This collaboration will enable transfer of knowledge between both countries and researchers by an exchange of different perspectives on the same subject matter: the brand images created by the representations of Brazil and its urban centres related to the Olympic Games. These images will be analysed with a focus on the official communication of the Games, but will also include a view on how these official narratives trickle down into the media and the sponsors’ discourse at a local (cities), national (Brazil) and international levels.


The project will culminate in a conference, to be hosted in Rio a year after the 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. The research will also involve regular publication of discussion papers, which will be made available online.