Was it beneficial to be an official Olympic sponsor?


The Olympics came to a close last week, hailed as a resounding success.  We all watched the events unfold, shouting at our televisions, willing on Team GB. But at the end of one of the most successful Games in history what have the official sponsors been asking themselves? Have the Olympics been a resounding success in their minds? They maybe feeling nervous for a very different reason than out athletes were on the starting line; what will the financial results at the end of the year be?

No one can argue against the success of the games; in fact the only real bad press that arose was down to the empty front row seats that were made highly visible by our HD T.Vs with much finger wagging directed at the official sponsors. To rub salt in the wound, Lord Coe failed to thank the Sponsors during his speech at the closing ceremony. Could it be that Lord Coe was not entirely pleased with how the successful the sponsors were at ‘enhancing the Olympic games’?

When asked prior to the opening Ceremony who the sponsors were, only 24% were able to name any. On a positive note this increased to 35% once the games had begun. The chocolate lovers amongst us know all about the official snack partner, the burger lovers all about the world’s largest Maccy Ds, traffic jammed Londoners will know all about the official vehicles zipping past them and the World’s Favourite Airline has successfully delivered teams from all over the globe. Yet BrandRepublic stated only ‘5% of the general public could name more than 5 official sponsors’.  I am sure this is not a figure to go down in their record books.

London 2012 was the ‘social media games’, for the first time social media has played an important role in marketing the Olympics and acting as a new platform for fans to engage with the Games. Despite organisers’ best efforts to avoid guerrilla marketing, this has resulted in unofficial brands being able to piggy back off the success of international events. Nike, who had previously been official sponsors of the Olympics, have milked this social media tool. According to a study by Brandwatch the Nike ‘#makeitcountcampagin’ has resulted in them outpacing Adidas as the apparel brand most associated with London 2012. The Nike offices must be cracking open the Champagne; they have gained the most exposure without the large expenses that come with being a Sponsor.

And it’s not just the corporations who have muscled in on the act. Post London 2012, it looks as though the athletes have been effective at building their personal brands. Think Olympics, think Usain Bolt, think Virgin Media.

So sponsors, was it worth it? Perhaps not, but we must all remember that the main drive of most business is financial. So the question can only be truly answered when the sums are in. Let’s wish them all luck, something tells me they may need it!


2012 is here, but are we prepared for it?

As we take our first few tentative steps into 2012 we thought we would cast our eyes forward and look at what the year has in store for UK marketers. The Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012; it is set to be an action packed year. But with so many brands competing for the limelight, how can they make sure they stand out from the crowd? Which offline and online media trends can marketers exploit in order to get ahead? As is so often the case, the answer is right before our eyes – to be prepared for 2012 we must learn from 2011.

2011 witnessed social media continue to expand its influence over the marketing industry. Many brands moved their entire digital spend to Facebook and it seems this pattern is set to continue in 2012. In particular the posting and sharing of videos online is transforming the advertising and marketing industry. Saatchi & Saatchi’s spoof of the royal wedding for T-Mobile, which featured Prince William and Kate Middleton lookalikes, was named 2011’s ad of the year among viewers in the UK. It was viewed an estimated 24,485,000 times globally after being launched in April 2011. The advert brilliantly tapped into the excitement of a nation and is a good example of successful offline and online strategies working together in harmony; a pattern we are likely to see a lot more of in 2012 with more and more adverts going viral online.

We couldn’t look back at 2011 without mentioning the phenomenal success of the John Lewis Christmas ad; ‘The Long Wait’. The advert touched the hearts of a nation and is a great example of a brand utilizing personality. In order to stand out from an increasingly busy crowd, brands need to make sure they create relationships with consumers and foster loyalty – John Lewis achieved this brilliantly. As explained by actress and screenwriter Mae West; “Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is”. A charismatic personality is crucial to a brand’s success and this isn’t going to change in 2012. With the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee fast approaching; 2012 will foster a greater sense of national pride in Britain. 2011 has already witnessed brands keen to adopt a more patriotic stance and this is all part of the personality brands will try and display to their consumers.

Another theme that looks set to dominate the marketing industry is the squeeze on price. The worldwide economic recession shows no signs of abating and 2011 saw price based promotions gather pace. Brands therefore need to make themselves budget proof, whether this is by being seen as the best in their field or by creating a strong relationship with their consumers. Brands must encourage customer loyalty to ensure when shopping budgets are cut they do not lose out to the often cheaper supermarket own brands.

Moving away from online and offline content the technology sector is also expanding and impacting on the marketing industry. The rise of the ‘second screen’ seems unstoppable. 2011 saw more and more people consuming media through smartphones and tablets rather than through more traditional platforms and this presents an interesting challenge to brands and marketers. According to Nielsen’s 2011 mobile connected devices report, 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone users use their device while watching TV, usually in a social sense. This research is backed up by the testimony of BBC i-player creator Anthony Rose, who claimed television ad-breaks were becoming “tweet breaks”. A number of televisions shows now invite viewers to ‘tweet’ along while watching and this trend will be boosted by the rise of internet connected smart TVs. This is a new and rapidly growing marketplace, marketers need to be proactive and create compelling content that will engage consumers. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionised how we interact with content on-the-go and mobile devices will continue to play a significant role in 2012.

Finally, with the emergence of cloud technology and the continued rise of wireless internet our lives and homes are now more connected than ever. Almost any modern device can have an internet connection and as a result video can be displayed almost anywhere. Video is becoming the preeminent communication tool of our society. Research from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index shows that by 2015, 1 million minutes of video will cross the internet every second. Therefore it seems certain 2012 will witness brands continue to adopt video content as an important communication tool online.

Clearly there is no shortage of options for marketers in the current environment. Social media, mobile, viral videos and more traditional methods mean marketers have a variety of platforms with which to engage their consumers. However with so much choice, brands need to take extra care not to rush into marketing decisions. Campaigns need to be carefully planned to ensure they are communicating with the right consumers in the right way.

Have a great year everyone!

Ian Savage

Proud to be British – an opportunity not to be missed


With the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee approaching next summer, patriotism in Britain is on the increase. Both events will be celebrating Britain and what it means to be British, and will hope to have the same unifying affect that we saw with the Royal Wedding earlier in the year. I certainly have a renewed sense of national pride – it’s hard not to when (dodgy politicians and rioting youths aside) our capital city is soon to play host to the world with the arrival of the greatest sporting competition on the planet!


This increased public spirit and rejuvenated patriotism has presented a fantastic opportunity for innovative marketing agencies. Consumers full of patriotic fervour are drawn more and more to companies who celebrate or acknowledge their British heritage; no longer is the Union Jack seen as a negative or a marketing faux pas, but a positive, and something companies are becoming more keen to associate themselves with.


The challenge facing brands and marketing agencies, therefore is how to tap into this patriotic zeal and translate it into profit. But what makes this challenge more difficult is ensuring that any activity achieves this and, at the same time, respects the strict marketing regulations (particularly regarding ambush marketing) that have been set for businesses that are not official sponsors of the London 2010 Olympic Games.


Some brands are blazing the trail, with Vodafone recently unveiling its ‘London’s Calling’ campaign with a series of black cabs emblazoned with the Union Jack and Vodafone’s logo offering phone charging services to customers. We have also seen Nestle associate themselves with the Olympics sporting legacy in a bid to boost their image.


Virgin Media has adopted a more subtle angle with its recently revamped logo. By incorporating the Union Jack Flag into its logo, the business is visibly celebrating its British roots whilst also drawing in customers with a renewed pride in what it means to be British. Virgin’s executive director of brand and marketing communications, Jeff Dodds, explained: “At Virgin Media we’re extremely proud of our British heritage and wanted to find a way to symbolically remind people about all the fantastic things about our nation. With Britain celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and hosting the Olympic Games next year, we believe there is no better time to show our pride and excitement about what it means to be British.”

In the past the UK has generally tended to shy away from overt displays of patriotism but it now seems that, with the approaching Olympics, we have thrown aside our old inhibitions and are ready to embrace our national identity. It will be interesting to see which brands will be next to recognise and make the most of this Olympic and Jubilee-inspired national pride spreading across the nation –  without stepping on any sponsors’ toes, of course.


Ambushing the Olympics

I’m sure you remember some of the best ambush marketing stunts…

 In 1996 Linford Christie appeared at an Olympics Press Conference wearing Puma contacts. During the 2006 Football World Cup 1,000 Dutch fans were told to remove their Bavaria lederhosen and watch the match in their underwear. At the 2010 Football World Cup 36 Dutch female supporters were escorted out of the Holland-Denmark match for wearing Bavaria miniskirts. And most recently, at the Rugby World Cup 2011 Manu Tuilagi was sanctioned for wearing a mouth guard bearing a sponsor’s name duringEngland’s first two games.


Ambush marketing is a tactical way for brands to cash in on major events without paying the premium to be a sponsor. Cracking down on these campaigns is essential to keep sponsors happy with their official association to events. If sanctions were not strict what would be the point of investing? And without sponsors’ funds how could organisations implement these events?

 With the 2012 Olympics approaching, it was announced last week that an amendment to the Olympics Act 2006 has been set to minimise ambush marketing. The change will reverse the customary burden of proof in criminal cases, making any perpetrators guilty until proven innocent.  

 However, I wonder whether these increases in red-tape and repercussions will really stop those considering cashing in on London’s largest event? It seems unlikely.

As Simon Massey puts it “The 2012 Olympic Games is owned by us all. As a Londoner, I have paid more tax to fund the Games, as have many businesses and brands against a promise of gain to the economy. Let us all benefit, within reason”.

 LOCOG are looking to clamp down on online keyword ambush marketing too. But how will they be able to prevent ambush marketing via mobile advertising or social media? Will any mention of the Olympics on a brands Facebook fan page be seen as ambush marketing? What about all the spectators being led through the biggest shopping mall in Europe as the gateway to the Olympic village –are all of these brands expected not to associate with the Olympics?

 A blur between brands and the Olympics already exists – can you actually name the official sponsors? I was surprised to discover that Nestle isn’t, despite their “Get set go free” campaign, which uses medal-prospect Tom Daley and is being aired in the Olympic run-up.

 Although I believe that sponsors need to be protected, I’m sure that this new legislation will inadvertently cause many brands to become guilty of ambush marketing. Unknowingly combining words, such as “Summer 2012” or even “London 2012”, and violating the 2005 Act. I agree entirely with Massey’s sentiment. It is important that LOCOG keeps in mind the benefits the Olympics brings to the wider economy and so creates a balance between their sponsors’ interests and that of the public and the games, since every UK tax-payer is contributing to London 2012.

Danielle Barrett