What will brands gain from London’s Olympics?
December 19, 2011 Leave a comment
Author: Ross McGuinnes @ Metro
Sponsorship has become ubiquitous and nowhere is this more evident that in the world of sport. But does aligning your brand with a big event reap more benefits for global brands than simply plastering their advertising everywhere? As next year’s Olympic Games in London loom, we look at what both sides get out of the relationship.
In millions of households across Britain, the same music blares out from the television on Tuesday and Wednesday nights: ‘THESE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!’
Although the catchy lyrics of the UEFA Champions League theme song refer to Europe’s best footballers, they could also be used to describe the various brands backing the event.
But can anyone name the main sponsors of the coverage? Just how much attention does the average football fan pay to who the ‘proud’ sponsors are?
To those big-money backers, though, simple advertising is seemingly not enough to get their message across. They have to be part of an event that is cherished by millions.
‘Sponsorship now is about how you get your brand ethos, how you connect with the fan worship and how you’re smart and how you own the story that surrounds the sport,’ PR guru Mark Borkowski said
He added that a full partnership with an event such as the Champions League, the World Cup or the Olympics offered so much more than simply taking out some adverts.
‘It gives you an opportunity to craft your story, to be involved at the foundations of these activities,’ he added.
‘Buying advertising gives you spots; you know what you’re getting but we’re all beginning to understand that people probably move out of the ad breaks to actually make a cup of tea, so you’re not connected with it.
‘The emotional connection is absolutely in the sponsorship packages, the PR, the marketing, the advertisers all bound together as one idea, rather than just slapping your logo on a shirt.’
One of the main sponsors of the Champions League is Ford, which last week extended its partnership with the competition, which already stretches back to 1992, until 2015.
Ford’s European chief executive, Stephen Odell, said of the tournament: ‘It is about the best-of-the-best on the ultimate stage, and that’s why Ford wants to be part of it.’
But there is no bigger sporting event next year than the Olympics. The eyes of the world will be on London in the summer – and the sponsors know it.
The 2012 Games has 55 sponsors, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa. ‘For those sort of brands it’s a case of keeping you up there,’ said Borkowski. ‘How would it look now if McDonald’s weren’t part of some of those big events? They will be trying to push into grass roots sport.’
This sense of corporate social responsibility means McDonald’s will showcase the produce of British farmers providing its food during the Games in London. It is also helping to train 70,000 volunteers for the event.
McDonald’s has been an official sponsor of the Olympics since 1976.
‘Sponsorship is essential to the successful staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,’ a spokeswoman for McDonald’s said.
This view is echoed by Locog, the London 2012 Organising Committee, which manages the money contributed by sponsors to ensure the Games run smoothly. ‘Without our sponsors, the Games simply wouldn’t happen,’ a London 2012 spokeswoman said.
For their investment, Olympic sponsors receive exposure but also legal protection. A government act prevents brands which are not official sponsors from getting in on the act.
Borkowski said the biggest brands were increasingly opting to back events rather than individuals because stars can find themselves embroiled in scandals.
‘Brands have felt a lot more troubled about getting the hottest talent – they can misbehave, get injured or do something stupid on tour,’ he added.
He thinks brands tread a fine line between overexposure and success: ‘I think we’re all very cynical about sponsorship now.’
There is another factor that brands are keen to exploit – good old-fashioned word of mouth. Steve Barton, of the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association UK, said sponsors were always looking for ‘added value’. He said IBM’s deal with the Wimbledon tennis championships was a good example of two partners working together.
‘IBM sponsors Wimbledon but then it gets involved with serving up information in real time about the tournament and actually turns it into a demonstration of the brand proposition,’ he added.