Olympics Sponsorship: How To Cut Through The Clutter
By Ashraf Engineer, Head – Content, HanmerMSL, MSLGROUP Asia
As the greatest sporting show on Earth gets under way, there is another high-profile one raging – between sponsors for mindshare. According to a recent report, the Olympics is the second most valuable brand – worth an estimated $47.6 billion – in the world, after Apple.
The brand is worth more than all of its other major sponsors – including Samsung, GE and Coca-Cola – put together. The Olympics brand, said the report, saw an 87% rise in valuation since the 2008 Beijing Games.
Obviously, associating with such a powerful brand has its benefits – it’s not just the visibility, but the opportunity to be part of people’s lives and the business boost that comes with it. No surprise then that the Olympics have 11 major sponsors, each paying around $100 million, and more than 40 other sponsors. It’s impossible to miss the marketing messages in London – from branded taxis and phone booths to streets bedecked with the Games’ flags, sponsors’ logos stare at you everywhere you go. The brand clutter is staggering.
But how can a sponsor cut through this clutter? What’s the point of coughing up hundreds of millions of dollars if your brand is lost in a sea of logos and advertising messages?
First, Go Beyond Advertising
Look at what Coca-Cola is doing. By focusing on path-breaking partnerships to engage with consumers, it is generating long-term brand equity.
For the first time in its 84-year Olympics partnership, Coke is focusing on a campaign – its largest ever Olympics activation – that has teens at its core. The Move to the Beat campaign is rolling out in more than 100 countries and includes giving 1,300 young and inspiring personalities a chance to carry the Olympic Flame. The integrated marketing campaign – which spans music and TV properties too – is designed to bring teens closer to the Games and sport in general.
This coincides with Coke supporting more than 250 physical activity and nutrition education programmes in more than 100 countries. In Great Britain alone, the beverage major will bring more than 110,000 youth closer to sport.
Procter & Gamble (P&G), meanwhile, is extending its successful ‘Thank You, Mom’ campaign from the 2010 Winter Olympics to the 2012 Games. Recognising the sacrifices and contributions made by the mothers of the athletes, it helped 250 women across the US to make it to Vancouver to see their children compete in the Winter Games. The media traction and buzz helped the FMCG giant raise sales by $100 million and brand recall by 39%. The Olympics will yield even better results.
P&G’s Thank You, Mom video:
“They weren’t born Olympians. They were just raised that way.”
Companies like Coke and P&G are redefining the idea of sponsorship. The shift, clearly, is from simply exposing your brand and selling your product to creating long-term meaning and value for the business.
To borrow a phrase I read online:
Meaning is replacing screaming.
Get More Strategic
Don’t forget that, apart from the official sponsors, there are numerous sponsors of individual athletes. They too are fighting for recognition and publicity.
In such a crowded space, it’s important to associate with the Olympics in a believable way. A couple of things to keep in mind:
- There must be a clear overlap between the event’s ethos and that of the brand.
- Hence, brands that seem to emulate the spirit of the Olympics – fair play, courage, excellence – will find a better fit.
How tough this can be is evident from a survey carried out by Interbrand. Only Adidas – incredibly, the only sports sponsor directly involved with the Olympics – won consumer approval. About 59% of respondents ‘completely agreed’ that it was a suitable fit. No other brand achieved more than 50% approval.
Hence, brands that don’t seem to have a natural synergy with the Olympics’ values, need strong integrated communication to achieve meaningful engagement before, during and after the event if the sponsorship is to have any meaning.
McDonald’s – not a brand that you’d naturally associate with the Olympics’ values – partnered with the Games as part of a wider strategy for reputation change. It sponsored the Olympics while pressing the pedal on its health initiatives, such as Go Active Happy Meals that provide children with pedometers rather than plastic toys. McDonald’s, accused for years of peddling unhealthy meals to children, was keen to show that it is pushing the health agenda. With its use of multiple platforms, Interbrand found, the message is getting through to consumers – 10% linked the health theme to the McDonald’s brand.
Remember, the Olympics will wind up on August 13 but the issues you associate with will continue to be relevant to your stakeholders. Hence, there is every opportunity to leverage the initial investment.
Could the same thinking be used for internal engagement, to attract and retain talent? Absolutely.
Ashraf Engineer is Head – Content at Hanmer MSL. In his previous avatar, he was a journalist, working with leading media houses in India such as The Times of India and The Hindustan Times. At Hanmer MSL, he oversees all thought leadership content work, including executive reports, research and insights, blogs and authored articles.