Google Translate Wins Marketing Gold in Rio

The Rio 2016 Olympic games are at the height of their glory. The world has been transported to Brazil, as athletes from around the world amaze us with their incredible performances. But what you might not see unless you’re here on the ground in Rio is another noteworthy performance that’s getting a lot of local buzz.

Just in time for the Olympics, Google Translate created an exceptional, highly local print campaign that is popping all over the streets of Rio. With this campaign, they’ve done a remarkable job connecting with two very distinct audiences — international tourists and Rio’s inhabitants, known to Brazilians as cariocas.

The campaign consists primarily of written carioca expressions in Portuguese, many of which could only be understood by people who hail from or live in Rio. These expressions are then translated into various languages. So far here in Rio, I’ve counted six languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic.

Even though Google Translate’s typical output is not known for its accuracy, with this creative ad campaign, they’ve certainly hit the target. Let’s look at some examples.

One instance of the campaign directly harnesses local pride, simply stating “proud to be carioca” in Portuguese, and offering translated versions in English and French.

Carioca pride

The signs also state in both English and Portuguese that a favorite local snack, Biscoito Globo, is “Rio in snack form,” tapping into the strong sense of carioca pride. (Contrast this positive, respectful treatment of local traditions with this article by a New York Times food writer who ridiculed Rio’s local snack favorite.)


Another sign cleverly refers to the multi-purpose term “beleza,” which has various different meanings in Portuguese, and also happens to give you a sense of why Google Translate has a tough task when converting this term into another language.


Google Translate also tapped into Rio’s local art with this translation of this famous piece of Rio graffiti that says, “Kindness generates kindness.”

José Datrino, Profeto Gentileza 


This campaign accurately represents the local culture when speaking about Rio, and gives cariocas the sentiment of pride they deserve. The tips and expressions Google has incorporated into the campaign would make any local smile and walk with their heads held high. For example, see this one below, which jokingly refers to 68-degree Fahrenheit weather in both English and Portuguese as “so cold,” a nod to the locals’ higher standard for what constitutes “good weather.”


Another great idea that Google Translate executed successfully with this campaign is that they not only included international tourists in this campaign but also helped to solve one of their most common problems that aligns with the company’s own mission for the product — the language barrier.

Although most people do study English in Brazilian schools, only 9.5 million Brazilians speak English in a country of 200 million people. Likewise, most foreigners who visit Brazil barely speak Portuguese, and usually answer with the Spanish “gracias” instead of the basic “obrigado.” The language barrier is a big reality, and one this campaign taps into.

By highlighting this issue on the streets of Rio and showing how they solve it within the campaign, Google Translate becomes not only a very useful tool, but helps people understand that technology can connect them and help them overcome language barriers. With translated sentences as simple as “welcome, world,” in German and Portuguese below, Google Translate helped the city of Rio became more multilingual, welcoming the many tourists who came from abroad to cheer for their teams.

Google Translate has done a masterful job of marrying local pride and truth with a global issue — the challenge of people from different nationalities coming into contact with each other and struggling to communicate.

But beyond that, what Google Translate has done is tap into themes that are highly local and unique to Rio. This campaign values cariocas in a way that most cariocas wouldn’t even dare doing themselves, by openly promoting Rio and sharing its secrets with the world.

Alexia Ohannessian

Alexia is International Marketing Lead at Trello, where she launched the product in 21 languages through an innovative crowdsourcing effort and now manages international marketing efforts. She has previously helped numerous companies create expansion strategies for Latin America. Alexia has lived and worked in three different continents. She is originally from France and lives in Brazil.

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