Olympic sponsors hit the home straight looking to maintain advantage
With more than 50 companies signed up to sponsor this year’s Olympic Games in London and other firms allied with Olympic sports and individual athletes, marketers have faced a challenge to ensure their brands stand out in a crowded marketplace.
As advertising is not permitted at Olympic sports venues, corporates which have paid millions of dollars to be official sponsors of the games have had to be creative in order to publicise their involvement and engage with sports fans and consumers in general.
The companies under the most pressure to deliver are the TOP sponsors of the International Olympic Committee, which pay up to $100 million in each four-year cycle and are almost obliged to roll out campaigns across various media that draw attention to their association with the games as they seek a return on their investment.
Nonetheless, the fact that high-profile sports sponsors such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Visa have had such a long association with the Olympic Games suggests that, despite the ever-present threat of ambush marketing, the partnership is a profitable one. For the multinationals, the benefit of the games returning to a first-world country, in this case the UK, is that they are already highly familiar with the market and can ‘Olympicise’ existing campaigns.
The traditional rule of thumb for spending on activation is three times the initial rights fee but, in today’s multimedia world, companies risk throwing good money after bad if they do not, like a proficient Olympic athlete, pursue the right strategy and peak at the right time.
Here, Sportcal presents case studies of four London 2012 partners, at different levels of the sponsorship hierarchy, showing how they are leveraging their assets in the run-up to the games this summer.
Coca-Cola, the US soft drinks giant, is the longestrunning partner of the Olympic Games, having been associated with the event since 1928, and was a charter member of the TOP programme when it launched in 1986.
However, although it is one of the most recognised Olympic sponsors, Coca-Cola is not complacent about its status and has sought to stay in tune with the times by launching a vivid marketing campaign entitled ‘Move to the Beat’ that marries music and sport and is intended to appeal to a target audience of young people.
This ties in with the London 2012 organising committee’s emphasis on youth, a major selling point in the city’s successful bid for the Olympics, and the efforts by the IOC to appeal to a younger demographic, at a time when the average age of television viewers of the games in developed countries has risen to 47.
Speaking at a Goldman Sachs symposium in May, Joe Tripodi, Coca-Cola’s chief marketing and commercial officer, outlined the company’s approach to this year’s Olympics, saying: “We had to make a choice and go young because we also had a gift, and the gift for us was London – London as an iconic city, a city leading so much in culture. And what do young people think of when they think of London? They think of music, they think of different kinds of music.”
Music producer Mark Ronson and British athletes at the launch of the Coca-Cola ‘Move to the Beat’ campaign
The London 2012 Torch Relay