Sara Cruz is a senior director in APCO’s London office and has worked with a number of Olympic sponsors.
With just 78 days to go before the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, there is much debate in the communication world about how businesses can benefit from the “Olympic factor” to build brand recognition. For sponsors, the focus is on deriving the most value from the investment, and for companies that haven’t jumped on the sponsorship bandwagon, there is the question of whether there is still time to “ride the Olympic wave.”
Here in London, there seems to be an event on the topic happening every week, where we hear about the efforts of big consumer brands to activate their sponsor investment to promote brand awareness, undertake corporate positioning and elicit employee engagement, but relatively little is said about the work of B2B brands – how do they make the best of the Olympic platform as a profile-raising opportunity, and how is this immense consumer event relevant to them when consumers are not their principal audience?
Like all effective marketing communication investments, the first thing these brands should do is decide what they want to achieve and how they will practically go about it. How will sponsorship of the Olympic Games support wider business objectives? Then, in terms of execution, it’s important to remember the role of social media as a communication channel – London 2012 is after all the first truly “social Olympics,” and while for many sponsors traditional media continues to generate the lion’s share of exposure, there are real opportunities to engage with business audiences as well as consumers in cyberspace.
The potential of the Paralympics should also not be overlooked; this is still a relatively un-crowded space.
When formulating a sponsorship activation strategy, it is as vital for B2B brands as consumer brands to understand what can reasonably be expected from the Games as a sponsorship property. In fact, as this event is first and foremost a consumer marketing platform, it is probably even more vital for B2B organisations to have clear expectations regarding the possible return. One key consideration is the potential value of working together with other sponsors to make the Games a success. For example, if a company provided an important element for the Olympic Park, which helped to deliver a sustainable Games, by working together with the other parties involved, that could make a compelling story.
How do you measure the value of the sponsorship investment? Of course, there are ways to capture movements in brand metrics and awareness; it’s possible to gather data around employee engagement and the new contracts won or leads generated. Purchasing sponsorship rights should enable the rest of a marketing budget to work even harder because it is able to bathe in the “reflected glory” of an Olympic Games sponsorship. But in the final analysis, whatever instantaneous metrics are produced, the true value of the sponsorship may not become evident until long after the last winning athlete has collected his or her medal.
So what of those businesses who have yet to ride the Olympic wave? Well, although the clock is very much ticking, it may not be too late for businesses to familiarise themselves with rule 40 of the Olympic Charter and let that be their guide.
Look at the Olympic themes and values and think about how they can be applied to external and internal business priorities. Perhaps there is the opportunity to promote better health and a more sustainable approach among a workforce and customer base, or develop an initiative around striving for excellence and promoting the highest level of performance.
Ultimately, the fact that the Olympics is coming to London presents a unique experience for us in the UK and the world beyond. Think outside the box and push the boundaries in Olympic activation – both in terms of creativity and geography. Do something Olympic this year!