London 2012: How sponsors cashed in on golden opportunity

Britain's Jason Kenny celebrates after crossing the finish line to win the gold medal in the London 2012 Olympic Games men's sprint final cycling event
Image caption London 2012 provided a unique opportunity for sponsors to make a mark

When some of the biggest national and international brands decided to sponsor last year's London 2012 Olympics, they were looking for more than merely plastering Games logos across their products.

Rather, they were looking to use the world's largest sporting event to hopefully achieve a number of company and commercial goals.

"For those firms that did get involved, the main thing was to calculate how they were going to use the sponsorship for their benefit, and how they would then measure their success and rewards in business terms," says the European Sponsorship Association's (ESA) chairman Karen Earl.

"There are a number of reasons why sponsors bought into the Olympics - including it being on their doorstep, it being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, tapping into the feel-good factor, or just because they were afraid of missing out,

"Some firms looked at getting involved but thought backing the Games did not meet their needs, or was too expensive."

Sales boost

Image caption P&G had a number of aims around its London 2012 sponsorship

At US multinational P&G - which featured medal-winning machine Michael Phelps on one of its shampoo brands - there were a number of aims in its role as an International Olympic Committee Partner TOP sponsor programme.

That programme covers global sponsorship agreements between firms and the Olympic movement as a whole, and lasts for a four-year cycle, whereas the Tier One programme run by London 2012 organisers Locog was for that one local Games only.

Their deal with the IOC is reported to have cost them $100m (£65m).

The global giant hoped to build its business through increased product sales, launch P&G as a brand separate from the numerous household products it makes, and to motivate and stimulate their workforce.

In association with its "Thank You Mom" advertising campaign around the Olympics, the company made $500m (£325m) in additional sales in 2012, and the Games also brought it massive global media and social media coverage.

"We were very happy with the sales we saw in our host market in the UK, and also around the world in a huge number of markets where we work," P&G's Olympics and Paralympics project director Nathan Homer told the BBC.

"We were particularly pleased with the UK and Ireland," says Mr Homer. "We really wanted the [Olympic] host market to set the standard."

Mr Homer said that the firm made sure it had its products in four million stores around the world during the duration of the Games.

By promoting the P&G name as a stand-alone brand he says customers were encouraged to use some of its dozens of product lines - including the likes of Gillette, Ariel, Pampers, and Wella - when they might not otherwise have done so.

"Sport can offer passion like no other area, and can spread across different consumer groups," he says. "The Olympic Games was a real family event, which allowed all our brands to find their niche with different family members."

At a staffing level, he says the multinational nature of the Olympic Games was used to highlight issues such as diversity awareness.

'Hit targets'

BT was the official communications services partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is also an official partner of Team GB and has backed the British Paralympic Association since 1989.

Image caption A London taxi with the Games and BT branding, as well as company ambassadors the Brownlee brothers, who won gold and bronze medals

Their Games sponsor deal was reported to have cost them $63m (£41m).

Ian Livingston, the outgoing chief executive of BT Group said the company had "learned a huge amount" with regards to future projects from delivering the Games' communications.

And, as the company's group marketing and brand director Suzi Williams explains, there were other specific goals.

"We wanted to increase brand awareness, increase employee awareness and participation, and increase revenue through broadband sales in the UK and through work and services for global clients," she says.

BT said its sponsorship brought in high levels of media coverage, with an estimated (advertising-equivalent) value of £60m ($92m) worth of exposure, not to mention widespread social media coverage.

And Ms Williams said the company's entry into the recent MillwardBrown BrandZ list of top 100 most valuable global brands, was a "brilliant" reflection of the coverage and awareness garnered for BT through its Olympic tie-in.

"Commercially... broadly in the UK we hit all our targets," she adds. "Globally, things took longer, but we think we have done a fine job."

Building on its Games connection, the company is now making the London 2012 international broadcasting centre at the Olympic Park home for its BT Sport TV channels.

And the firm will continue to support the GB Paralympic team to the Rio 2016 Games.


Ms Earl of the ESA said that in the main the Olympics had been "an expensive purchase for sponsors". but for firms that had a clear vision of what they wanted to get out of the deal, then it would have proved to be money well spent.

Image caption A British Airways aircraft sporting the London 2012 Olympic Games logo

She said she had been impressed by Lloyd's TSB's and BA's Olympic sponsor campaigns, but added that those companies who had not made the most of their opportunity would not be broadcasting the fact.

Games partners in other London 2012 sponsorship tiers - Cisco, UPS and BMW - have also been praised by the ESA.

"It is always very difficult to tell if a sponsorship did not do well, some firms might say they were using the experience to make future sponsorship opportunities work better," she adds.

She said G4S's experience was an example of how a sponsorship deal had not worked well, following the fiasco of its failure to provide the number of security guards it had been contracted to provide to Olympic venues.

"If you are going to be putting your business in the spotlight to showcase yourself, then you have to make it work perfectly," she says.

"Otherwise it will take a long time to get away from the effects of getting it wrong."

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