The next step for brands after the Olympics
“Britain must build on the success of Olympics” demanded the front cover of The Times, as the legacy debate heated up and then reignited. At the midpoint between the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games it has dawned on the nation, and particularly the purse holders who signed off on the spiralling £9bn budget, that the farrago has gone off better than anyone could have hoped for – an outstanding medal haul for Team GB, none of the feared transport gridlock, and Rapier surfaceto-air missiles that have had no cause to stray any further than the roof of Leytonstone’s Fred Wigg Tower. With everything going so ‘not wrong’, UK plc finds itself in a similar position to a top tier brand partner of the Olympic Games whose multimillion pound sponsorship has gone off without a hitch. It’s a position that starts with the question: how do we maximise the return on our investment? Intelligent brand owners, of course, pose the question at least as earnestly before the investment as at the close. Major sponsorship events, though rich with potential to create significant brand momentum, are also mired with uncertainty. Asking ‘is it worth it?’ is more demanding, but ultimately more rewarding, than asking ‘was it worth it?’ as it challenges the organisation to ensure the impact of the brand’s association goes beyond just the term of the event – regardless of whether the event goes off with a bang or a whimper. UPS is the official logistics and express delivery supporter of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Logistics being a significantly greater endeavour than simply getting stuff where it’s supposed to be on time, UPS has made the classic sponsorship error of focusing on its product and service, the relevance to the Games, and crafting a sponsorship vehicle out of the connection. UPS’s statement and, presumably, sponsorship strategy, goes: “If UPS can handle a logistics challenge the size of the Olympic Games, just think what UPS can do for your business.” Contrast the banality of that with Procter & Gamble, which presented its official IOC partner status as


the far more emotional ‘Proud sponsor of Mums’. The difference between P&G and UPS here is the difference between the sponsorship activity being part of a bigger brand idea and it being the brand idea. A campaign property needs to be developed that creates a context for the sponsorship equity and is not just a temporary vehicle to announce it. Yes, the Olympics does require a lot of logistics planning and implementation yet given that this is UPS’s day to day function, what has been missed is the opportunity to think creatively and to weave a sponsorship platform into a broader more interesting brand story that can have resonance long after sponsorship event has been packed up and shipped off to Rio. What P&G has done, as has Visa with its ‘Flow’ brand story, is to create campaign properties that are invested in before, during and after the sponsorship activity, and which use the sponsorship as ultimate evidence of a brand attribute. ‘Flow’ and ‘Mums’ represent equities that have been invested in either as an over-arching brand philosophy, in the case of Visa, or as a commitment via a brand stable in the case of P&G. Crucially, a strong and original campaign property works whether the sponsored event is successful, average or hideously accident-prone. Getting the right kind of sand in place and on time for the beach volleyball is binary, and no one much cares if you get it right. The camera panning to the face of Sir Chris Hoy’s mum as she covers and then uncovers her eyes under the pressure of his last ever Olympics track race is, whether he wins or loses, pure gold for P&G. And what of the government, with the pressing question of Olympics legacy? Having been gifted by LOCOG with both the promise to ‘Inspire a generation’ and a Games that appears to be doing just that, it is in the position of a ‘sponsor’ for whom everything has gone right. The ability to deliver outstanding ROI for UK plc is in its hands.


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