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Which brands won gold at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games?

With week two in full swing, Canadian athletes in Sochi are still fighting hard to bring home gold. And they're not the only ones. Canadian brands and global businesses are also hoping for a spot on the podium. With the closing ceremonies just a few days away, let's take a look at which brands deserve a medal in this year's Olympic news cycle. Full disclosure: RBC, Samsung and Canadian Tire are clients.

A number of the big sponsors hit gold with their campaigns. From RBC's #YourSomeday campaign, to Samsung's #BringItHome, Canadian Tire's We All Play for Canada and P&G's Pick Them Back Up ad, Canadian athletes secured more support and airtime than ever, both online and in traditional media. These brands created campaigns that embraced the spirit of the Games and inspired us, motivated us and celebrated our strong sense of national pride.

Who else medalled, and how did they do it? There are three campaigns that creatively stood out by leveraging smart insights around conversations that would be happening at the Games and ensuring they would be part of the discussion.

Early on, Airbnb capitalized on #SochiProblems and offered a solution to the less-than-stellar hotel accommodations in Sochi. Following the hashtag that has become undoubtedly tied to this year's Games, the travel rental company individually targeted and responded to journalists on Twitter who complained about issues experienced at their hotels, such as a lack of hot water, no Internet and broken door knobs. Airbnb presented them with alternate and more appealing options available for rental through its website. In the controversy surrounding hotel accommodation in Sochi, Airbnb's response was a welcomed solution, which helped make this social-media campaign a new example of real-time marketing done right.

Poor accommodation hasn't been the only topic making negative headlines, as these have arguably been the most controversial Olympic Games in history. With that has come several opportunities for brands to boldly take a stand.

Russia's human rights laws have been a hot topic since day one, and they have resulted in heated discussions that have taken the world by storm. With negativity and controversy encompassing the conversation, the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion (CIDI) made a strong statement. It created a video showing lugers in spandex making close body contact with the tagline: "The games have always been a little bit gay. Let's fight to keep them that way."

Instead of shying away from the controversy, CIDI found a humourous way to address it directly and took a stand. The campaign stood out, earning national media coverage and more than 200,000 views in just 48 hours. AT&T took a similar stance and voiced its support for LGBT equality globally, becoming the first major U.S. company associated with the Olympics to take a stand against Russia's anti-gay laws. Its bold move earned public praise and helped improve the face of the brand by speaking up at a time when everyone was listening.

Another brand that proved Canadians appreciate a bold move every now and then was Molson Canadian. During a time when national pride is at an all-time high, this Canadian brand capitalized on the heightened emotions by directly calling out a competitor in cheeky fashion by publicly questioning their loyalty to Team Canada.

It was a risk: As anyone in the public relations industry will tell you, there are always sensitivities around calling out the competition. Fortunately, Molson did it right. No fans are more loyal than Canadian hockey fans, and they took a stand to drive this home. Similar to CIDI's video, Molson's ad was edgy and its overall sentiment hit home with the target audience.

Brands that won gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games are the ones that had an opinion and joined the conversation in a way that ultimately empowered their audiences. With two years until the Summer Games, how will your brand start training for the 2016 Olympics?

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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