Olympians – They’re Just Like Us

If you’ve been watching this year’s Olympics (or just reading the news), you’ve likely seen a few athletes with dark red/purple spots on their bodies. Earlier this week, superstar-Olympian Michael Phelps entered the pool with those large, dark circles on his shoulders and back; and so, the questions began. It’s called cupping. But what is it, and how much do we really know about what seems to be the latest trend?

Cupping is an ancient therapy that dates back nearly 2,000 years and has mostly been used in Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Many people have never heard of it before, and now it’s got us all in a frenzy trying to figure it out. Athletes use it as a healing therapy that consists of having round glass suction cups placed on the sore parts of their body. The cup creates a partial vacuum, which is believed to stimulate muscles and blood flow, while relieving pain.

Most of the world saw Phelps’ cupping marks for the first time this week, but turns out he’s actually been practicing the treatment for at least a year. So does it hurt? Here’s a quick look at Phelps’ cupping regimen that’s featured in a new Under Armour campaign. He says yes, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Phelps ignited the cupping conversation, and now, it feels like we’re all a little curious as to what cupping can do for us. News anchors are giving it a shot and #cupping is trending on social media this week. So what has an Olympic stage done for the mysterious therapy that now has everyone talking? And is this another health trend that’s here stay?

Every year, there are new health trends that pop up, and while some stay around longer than others, they all impact us in one way or another. This translates over to the Olympics as well, as each of the games seems to have trendy items meant to help athletes perform their best, from high-tech swimsuits to the bright kinesio tape seen during the London games. While it’s too early to know if this trend will stick post-Olympics, one thing we can say is trends set by world-class athletes and celebrities impact our conversations. Even media, like CNN, USA Today, The New York Times, as well as local news anchors, are talking about cupping – and some are trying it out for themselves.

cupping-massage-therapy-featuredAthletes like Phelps may swear by this treatment, but you better believe that there are counterarguments against it as well. Some physicians are saying that this could just be placebo effect, and that cupping doesn’t actually relieve the muscles. But as this GQ article points out – just because it’s an ancient treatment and isn’t validated by large pharmaceuticals, doesn’t mean it’s not effective.

Regardless of which side you take, one things for certain. As marketers, we recognize the power of celebrity voices. Using their fame, celebrities or athletes have the ability to engage with fans and (more often than not) make an impact, ultimately changing consumer behavior and building a brand.

Cupping conversations will likely continue into week two of the 2016 Olympics, which poses the question: Is cupping truly going to leave its mark (pun intended) on athletes across the world well after the Rio games conclude? Stay tuned!

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