“Faster, higher, stronger:” The athletic mantra of the Olympic Games is synonymous with the kind of returns that a myriad of brands are hoping to reap this winter in Vancouver and beyond.

Some hope to make an international impact by launching splashy high-tech or eco-friendly initiatives; others have invested in local projects that will generate goodwill with Vancouverites long after the athletes leave town.

Many other brands are just looking to expose their products and services to the millions of viewers, visitors and spectators who will be transported into the Transumer headspace by the global excitement around the Games. Here are a few innovative examples.

Open House

Most Vancouver hotels have been booked for months, if not years; some are taken over entirely by TV crews and heads of state. So during the recent real-estate blip, one developer got creative. The new downtown residential tower Level turned from proposed rental apartments into an extended-stay residential hotel, suddenly the only one in town with Olympic vacancies. It will also temporarily host USA House during the games. That high-visibility gig could be a big-time launching pad; Level Furnished Living hotel has already housed some visiting Hollywood film crews.

Style and Substance

Compare the plans of official sponsor Omega, which opened a classy pop-up watch boutique for the duration of the Games in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver; and of renegade eyewear brand Oakley, which will have its Rolling O product and technology lab-on-wheels in the more populist locale of nearby ski hill Grouse Mountain. Each approach smartly targets the brand’s core audience.

Official clothing sponsor Hudson’s Bay Company and its red mittens has a shining presence at the Games, but there are plenty of other sportswear brands ready to grab some limelight. Victorinox, makers of Swiss Army travel gear, have a pop-up temporary store in Whistler for the Games. Red Canoe Heritage Brands also recently opened a permanent Whistler store. How many tourists will happily purchase these Canadiana-hip clothes in place of “official” gear?

Meanwhile, hometown Yoga-pant guru Lululemon got wrist-slapped for its cheeky “Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition” clothing line. The IOC called it ambush marketing; we call it clever positioning.

The Bay's Olympic superstore in downtown Vancouver (by susan gittins via flickr)

Easy Being Green

Eco-friendly products are becoming an easier sell with consumers, but a marketing boost during the Games could be a green launching pad. Official sponsor Coke is using the Olympics to unroll new clean, green cooling technology for 1,400 vending machines around Olympic sites—a first in Canada. Greenpeace (founded in Vancouver in 1978) has been working with Coke over the last several years to popularize the new technology; Vancouver 2010 could be the global “tipping point.”

Good Will Hunting

While some brands are going straight for their customers’ dollars, others are winning over their hearts and minds. Official sponsor GE partnered with the province of BC to revitalize a beloved local playground, the delightful Arthur Erickson-designed skating rink at downtown’s Robson Square.

The rink showcases GE lighting and cooling technology—and a great deal of corporate goodwill. The $2-million project will have a lasting legacy for locals after the Games.

Likewise, official sponsor Bell is hosting the Bell Ice Cube, a 3,000-square-foot downtown celebration zone that will showcase Bell technology, sure—but will also have talk shows with athletes and live music for the crowds.

Night skating at GE Plaza in Vancouver's Robson Square (by susan gittins via flickr)

Screening Room

This is being called the first Twitter Games, with dedicated social media newsrooms popping up around the city. No other Olympic Games has been such a platform for new technology of every kind.

Official sponsor Panasonic will debut its home 3D HD plasma TV, and is sponsoring athletes to blog using Panasonic video and online technology.

Samsung scored a coup by making its Omnia the official Olympics cellphone, though the local media has been reporting that disgruntled VANOC employees are using their personal iPhones and Blackberries on the sly.

There’s even an official Olympic video game, by Sega, to win over the eyeballs of the young male and extreme-sport demographic.

Medal Ceremony

But our favourite branded promotion of the Games is by Urban Barn, which has uniquely combined a bricks-and-mortar appeal to locals and visitors with an online gimmick bound to attract even broader attention.

The furniture retailer is moving one of its employees into its Howe Street location 24/7 during the games, making it a public living room—and a high-profile showcase for their products. Store manager Robbie will Tweet, update a Facebook page and generate a live Big Brother-style feed that will be broadcast in 10 Urban Barn locations across Canada.

Step up on the Sparksheet podium: we give you the Transumer engagement gold medal.