The “Olympics” brand is incredibly powerful and it evokes strong emotions among players and spectators alike. The upcoming London Olympics 2012 promises to entice marketers given the expected mindboggling viewership, attractiveness of London as a modern, European venue and the sheer pull of ‘values’ around the Olympics. The Beijing Olympics 2008 saw 4 billion people tune in worldwide – that’s almost 3 out of every 4 people.
The Sponsors for London Olympics are divided into 4 categories: 11 Worldwide partners (McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Acer, VISA,P&G, GE, DOW, Panasonic, Atos & Omega) , local Tier 1 partners (like BMW, Adidas & BP), Tier 2 partners(like Cadbury, Deloitte and ArcelorMittal)and Tier 3 partners or suppliers(like Ticketmaster, Eurostar , GSK & Holiday Inn).
As per the IOC (International Olympic Committee), the traditional in-stadia branding (perimeter boards) are not allowed at London Olympics. So what are the sponsors getting out of Olympics this year? Essentially, they’re paying for the right to use the Olympic logos in their own advertising and activation campaigns, through which they can make an overt connection between their brand and the games. By doing this, brands hope to attach their own values to those of the Olympic Games.
When brands are spending hundreds of millions of pounds to get associated with the Olympics, it’s natural that the LOCOG (London Organizing Committee of Olympic Games) will take stringent measures to provide exclusivity (monopoly rights) to these brands and prevent any kind of ambush marketing. Lessons have been learnt from the past.
Nike famously ambushed the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games which was sponsored by Reebok. They constructed a Nike Village next to the Olympic Village, bought the majority of outdoor billboards surrounding the site and handed out Nike flags for spectators to wave in front of the cameras at the games. The outcome was that 22% of TV viewers believed Nike to be the official sportswear sponsor of the Olympic Games whereas only 16% correctly identified it as Reebok. This was obviously devastating for Reebok who paid out millions for their official sponsor status.
At the London Olympics, McDonald’s will be the only branded food that can be sold at the events and Coca-Cola the only drinks provider. Moreover, if you prefer buying tickets, food or merchandize during events, with a credit crad, it has to be a VISA card. Then there is the much-criticized ‘clean stadia policy’, which means all non-sponsor brand references built into the Olympic venues will be covered or removed for the duration of the games. This even includes branding built into toilet cisterns and soap dispensers. Pushchairs, water bottles, clothing in which the manufacturer’s identification / logo is larger than 12cm will all be banned.
Among other benefits for the sponsors, they will be given first rights to all outdoor advertising space within a one mile radius of the Olympic stadium, whilst the games are running, as well as high impact sites around the city. However, this media space comes at an added cost. LOCOG has kicked off an online auction which will allow brands to bid for media space worth £250m. The media space will run across 10 cities where events are being held, including London, Cardiff and Birmingham. Only the 18 worldwide and Tier 1 sponsors such as BP, Samsung and BMW, will be able to bid for the prime sites in the first two weeks. Tier two and tier three sponsors will be allowed to bid for advertising space ranging from billboards to posters after the third week. Also, a total of about 4,000 packages of advertising will be put up for sale at a fixed cost. Outdoor ads, giveaways, projected advertising and aerial advertising will all be covered.
Naming rights for Olympic venues is another big opportunity for marketers. Three Olympic venues will be temporarily renamed for the duration of the Games – The O2 Arena (North Greenwich Arena), Sports Direct Arena (St James’ Park) and the Ricoh Arena (City of Coventry Stadium).
For multinational sportswear companies, the Olympics represent a brilliant marketing opportunity before a global TV audience. Adidas, apart from being the official sportswear partner of the London Olympics, is also the sponsor of Team Great Britain; a serious attempt to overtake Nike as the number one sportswear brand in the UK! On the other hand, Nike is sponsoring the US national team and top athletes like Mark Cavendish, while Puma’s logo will be prominently displayed on the chest of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt.
Hospitality benefits are another big plus for sponsors. They are sending a lot of their current/potential clients/customers to London Olympics to experience the amazing atmosphere first hand, while enjoying world-class hospitality services. Anyone who will experience the Olympics in such style, is likely to forget the experience or the ‘brand’ that made it happen.
London Olympics (like Olympics in general) is one big extravaganza and it is as much about branding, advertising and big bucks as it is about the grand Olympic spirit. All the marketers hard at work at the Olympics will hope that their brands too take “Citius, Altius, Fortius route”!