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Think BR: The Olympics - a brand marathon or a sprint?

Brands sponsoring the Olympics have to be truly committed if they want to see a return on their investment, and writes Freddie Baveystock, consultant, Rufus Leonard.

Freddie Baveystock, consultant, Rufus Leonard

Freddie Baveystock, consultant, Rufus Leonard

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It seems that every brand in the UK, and beyond, is jumping on the Olympics bandwagon, vying to bask in the positive glow of the world’s greatest sporting event.

Many sponsors have thrown their money into the arena and are off to a flying start. Yet, what will be the legacy of this heavy investment after the Olympic flame has been extinguished?

The long game


Clearly the legacy benefits of the Games are different for every sponsor, depending on their target audience and the brand's existing marketing strategy.

For some, the Olympics seems a natural ‘fit’ and sits nicely with their existing message and brand values. Coca Cola, for example, is a tier one sponsor of the Games and will no doubt be able to capitalise on its focus on the UK youth audience.

Its emphasis on talent-spotting could also readily be extended beyond sport to music and fashion, tying in with its existing marketing outreach.

Yet, for others, sponsorship feels less strategic and the legacy benefits could be harder to achieve. Diageo chief marketing officer, Andy Fennell, certainly thinks sponsorship has its limits.

He told delegates at the recent Cannes Lions Festival: "We won’t be sponsors of the World Cup or the Olympics… It’s really expensive and hard to get a return."

He has a point. No doubt brands will be able to see a measurable impact on brand consideration and awareness but the financial benefits will be much harder to gauge.

You've gotta be in it to win it


It isn't hard to understand the attraction of Olympic sponsorship and the benefits of profile-building and increased brand favourability can’t be underestimated.

The Olympics is the greatest sporting occasion in the world and provides the ideal opportunity to raise brand consideration among consumers by linking to a unique, positive, global event. 

For those looking to get into event sponsorship, the Olympics could act as a springboard to becoming a credible sports sponsor.

Even for those that aren’t looking to sponsor again, it has the benefit of association with the best of the best in the sporting world, positioning a brand as a category-leading British business.

Our client, Lloyds TSB, is already benefiting from its positive outreach to communities outside of London, through National School Sports Week, Local Heroes, and the Olympic Torch Tour.

Post-Olympics, the brand could build on this by continuing its sponsorship of up-and-coming sporting talent and community sport.

Past the finish line


Whatever the impact on the wider public, no doubt the most valuable legacy of the Games for businesses will be the enhanced personal relationships built through corporate hospitality. 

Experiencing something as genuinely ‘once in a lifetime’ as the Olympics together will undoubtedly deepen relationships between host and guest.

Sponsors can build on the relationships and connections made at the event and can reference that experience and shared memory in the months, and years, after the Games.

Clearly, brands will need to play this carefully - there's a fine line between giving an experience or gift and making contacts feel that they are being overtly mined for profit. 

Marketers should refrain from chasing contacts and making attendees feel that they owe them for the experience. Instead, they must make sure that the experience is sufficiently memorable and could offer them further special opportunities such as VIP access to new products and launches.

Relationship building aside, once the Olympic flame has burnt out, and the large sponsorship budgets are a long forgotten memory, the wider brand benefits may also fizzle out unless a legacy strategy is already in place.

Time will tell, but I suspect that in the race to sponsor the games, only the well-prepared and truly committed will see a return on their heavy investment.

 Freddie Baveystock, consultant, Rufus Leonard

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