Who are the Corporate Olympic Champions?
While a select number of companies have collectively ploughed an estimated £1bn into the Olympic Games as official sponsors, it is not necessarily easy to calculate how they have benefited from that investment.
A total of 53 companies had signed up to one of four sponsorship categories to obtain official advertising rights: worldwide partners TOP (11), tier one partners (7), tier two (7) and tier three (28). 6 FMCG companies and 5 technology companies participated as official sponsors.
Visa & Omega are among the 11 global firms which make up the Olympic Partners (TOP) programme, paying an estimated $100m (€81m) for their four-year commitment.
Tier one partners at London 2012 Olympic Games included Adidas and British Airways & BMW.
Tier two partners included Adecco, Cisco & UPS and further down the ladder tier three sponsorship included G4S, Nature Valley Granola Bars & UPS.
Research from Brand consultancy Havas Sports & Entertainment indicates that Lloyds comes out on top on this basis, with 30% recognising the bank as an official sponsor of the Olympics. “This isn’t just because it paid for the rights. It was the first firm to sign up with Locog (London Organising committee of the Olympic and Paralympics games) and then invested behind this by promoting association in a way that engaged consumers” says Alistair MacDonald, Director of Sponsorship Insights at Havas.
He highlights its role as Presenting Partner of the Olympic torch relay, where the firm transformedits branches on the designated routes into hubs where people could gather to celebrate, as an example of this.
However, consumer recognition is only one way to define success. Top sponsor Acer, which provided the Games’ computing infrastructure, said one of its main motivations was to win new business clients.
Interbrand ran a survey with consumers to ascertain which brands performed well at the games
Before the games began:
Interbrand’s research showed that P&G’s “thank you mum” campaign, celebrating communities and families, which kicked off 100 days before the Olympics started, was picked up by 11% of those it surveyed leading up to the Games
This compares to the 4% average that picked up messages beyond their basic financial support from other official sponsors.
Nathan Homer, P&G’s UK and Ireland Olympic Projects Director, told the BBC that it aimed to make $500m in additional sales thanks to its London 2012 association.
Likewise, credit card company Visa scored well in terms of recognition as a brand sponsor, with 49% of consumers surveyed by Interbrand recognising its Olympic association.
The association, however, was often negative. As the only payment card accepted at London 2012, its “Proud to accept only Visa” slogan at the Olympics came in for heavy criticism, with some customers furious that they weren’t allowed to pay with rival cards.
But for Visa, the bigger picture remained positive. “It gained global recognition for its role, boosting it against its main rival Mastercard. Its battleground is global. What happened in London is just a localised skirmish,” says Graham Hales,
Chief Executive Officer of Interbrand London.
Olympic Marketing “Black out period”
Before the games began athletes who were competing in the games were forbidden from appearing in any advertising campaign by companies that were not official sponsors. The grounds around London including the sky above were closely patrolled for non –sponsor advertising and strict rules were imposed for clothing worn by competitors.
The real risk of ambush marketing lies in the fact that the general public doesn’t make the distinction between official sponsors and the other advertisers. “Surveys have shown that when members of the public are asked to name brands associated with the Olympic Games, more than half of their responses are not in fact sponsors. The public tend simply to take note of the most memorable campaigns”.
One example of this would be Dr Dre’s, the Beats headphone range. It was not an official sponsor of the games but managed to gatecrash the party by sending free sets out to athletes beforehand.
Social Media Marketing
London 2012 is considered the first truly digital Olympics with many opportunities for brands to connect through social media. Sochi 2014 will probably be even more so with the growth of the social media user base.
The sponsors created video advertisements, the Olympic Committee engage with fans. For example the “Best of Us” competition asked fans to beat Olympic Stars in different fun challenges like “can you carry as many tennis balls as Rafael Nadal?”
With nearly 4 million fans on the Olympic Games page, facebook has provided another successful avenue which to reach audiences, share content and create interaction. More than this, facebook is also helping to create an emotional link with fans allowing them to submit personal photos of their experience and share them with their on line community.
Non official Olympic partners have also been benefitting from the social space with Nike having 59,308 online mentions between 1st May to midway through the Olympics on August 8th, compared with just 25,554 for Adidas the official partner, Interbrand data shows.
The Athletes have also been benefitting from the social media channels, the top three performers with the highest total mentions are:
Usain Bolt 962,756
Michael Phelps 828,081
Tom Daley 487,835
BBC & ESSEC Business School