ISSUE EIGHT | AUTUMN ‘11

WO RLD CLA SOC SS BRA IAL ND S
Africa. The New Frontier. Riding the Global Anarconomy. Socialising Your Brand. There’s Magic in the Making. The Unmatched Potential of LatAm. Dubai, Today and Tomorrow. Are You Feeling Olympic?

Colin Byrne CEO, EMEA

It has been an exciting few months for us at Weber Shandwick. Announcing new business ventures in London, Africa and Latin America, and winning prestigious global and regional awards for public relations excellence and digital creativity. Against a difficult economic background, our firm and our industry continues to evolve and innovate. I hope you enjoy this latest collection of insights from our senior leaders around the globe.

Jill Hamilton Regional Director, Africa

Africa. The New Frontier.
The communications industry in Africa is a challenging yet rewarding place to do business. Africa contains 53 independent and sovereign countries, most of which still have the borders drawn during the era of European colonialism. Although it has abundant natural resources, Africa remains the world's poorest and most underdeveloped continent, due to a variety of causes that may include the spread of deadly diseases and viruses (notably HIV/AIDS and malaria), corrupt governments that have often committed serious human rights violations, failed central planning, high levels of illiteracy, lack of access to foreign capital, and frequent tribal and military conflict (ranging from guerrilla warfare to genocide). According to the United Nations' Human Development Report in 2010, the bottom 25 ranked nations (151st to 175th) were all African.
By most estimates, well over two thousand languages are spoken in Africa making it the most multilingual continent in the world. The continent is described and split into the phrase ‘Pan-Africa’ which remains more a model than a working reality. Africa remains a maze of nations, ethnic groupings, languages, currencies, statutory and legal frameworks and consumer patterns. For all the future opportunity presented by a theoretical market of 950 million consumers, Africa remains a set of inter-connected but fragmented and fundamentally diverse markets. Any company wishing to drive its business, media awareness, and visibility while increasing its share of voice has to start with this difficult reality. Digital and social media have very quickly transformed the entire African continent. In a disjointed mix of countries, mobile phones and the internet have made profound changes to the way of life across Africa – socially, economically, and more recently directly impacting major government reforms. It is predicted that 69% of mobile phones in Africa will have internet access by 2014. (Source: Intelligent
Life/Economist/ Spring 2011)

Gone are the days when organisations could simply handle their PR from abroad in London or Paris – the models are different on the ground and local expertise is required to get messaging right and reach target audiences.
A recent study shows that 62% of internet access in Africa takes place via a mobile device. Technology is enabling more people to get internet connectivity via their mobile phones and as GSM networks penetrate places where no other connectivity is available, mobile internet users in Africa are increasingly making it the most effective web platform to reach the African market. Without a doubt the communications industry is growing across the continent as major multinationals are realising the important role public relations companies play in helping them achieve their targets. Gone are the days when organisations could simply handle their PR from abroad in London or Paris – the models are different on the ground and local expertise is required to get messaging right and reach target audiences. Francophone Africa possesses vast potential – until recently it has been somewhat overlooked and companies have worked more in the traditional markets of South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. It is a more difficult region to carry out PR plans and strategies and on the ground presence and local knowledge are vital. Approximately one-third of Africa’s one billion people live in Francophone Africa. The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) estimates nearly half of the 200 million French-speakers in the world live in Africa, currently 96.2 million. In this region, French is often the only language spoken and written in schools, administrations, radio, television and the internet. State-controlled broadcasters and newspapers still dominate public discourse. Information access issues prevent media from reaching all but a few of the urban elites. Overall, only 10 per cent of Africa has internet access. Online news sites and blogs are in their infancy due to poor communications infrastructure, high prices for use, language barriers, and even frequent power outages. Overall Africa’s media markets are in the midst of dynamic change and the opportunity for the communications industry is immense. The key trends to keep top of mind are: • Press freedom, professionalism, and accountability are growing in a number of countries. • Print media is prominent and developed in rapidly expanding urban centres. • Broadcast radio is a dominant, widespread news source for urban and rural communities and TV channels are increasing. • Internet access worldwide is 1:5; in Africa it is 1:20. Internet use, however, in targeted countries is rapidly expanding. In Nigeria, for example, between 2000-2010 it grew by nearly 22,000 per cent. (Click here for source)

One example: The number of Facebook users in Tanzania quadrupled in 2010, to 200,000. It is expected to quadruple again this year, giving Tanzania more Facebook users than high school graduates. Due to this phenomenon most companies looking to reach the vast amount of consumers in the most cost effective way are turning to some sort of mobile/social media outreach. More than 15 per cent of people online in Africa are currently using Facebook, compared to 11 per cent in Asia. (Click here for source) Twitter and YouTube additionally rank among the most visited websites in most African countries. Usage of Google is surging; with a 50 per cent annual growth in search requests (four of every 10 requests come from mobile phones). The BBC has also reported that African governments are turning to sophisticated techniques to block internet sites and bloggers who they perceive to be a threat, including JamiiForums, a Swahili language version of Wikileaks.

Adam Mack Chief Strategy Officer, EMEA

How Brands Can Ride the Global Anarconomy.
In recent years, and especially recent months, we have seen a news cycle so unexpected and so intense that many of the things we have taken for granted have been shaken to their very core. From corruption at the heart of Italian government, fraudulent expenses in the British Parliament and the downgrading of U.S. debt to the disintegration of the ‘Murdoch Mediocracy’, the incompetence of banks and the possible collapse of the euro – everything is contributing to a crisis in citizen and consumer trust on a massive scale. This sense of uncertainty and unsettlement is sparking riots and unrest across both entrenched dictatorships (the Arab Spring) and hitherto calm European democracies such as Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK, to name but a few.
But where is all this unrest leading? Recent research from The Future Laboratory has suggested that we have entered an ‘Anarconomy Decade’ – an ongoing state of disquiet and insecurity. A state where no one really knows what is going to happen next and everyone is anxious about the future. Whilst we can argue about how long this current period will last, there is no doubt we are all living in a state of flux. In such a climate it is only natural that communications directors, brand managers and CMOs are asking themselves the question: ‘How can I best adapt my brand to what is an increasingly unpredictable and hostile environment?’ Whilst there is justifiably much anxiety amongst marketers about this unpredictable future and how best to prepare for it, there should also be a great deal of excitement. As Daniel Burrus, the author of ‘Flash Foresight’ says: “We’re at the base of a mountain of disruption, but it’s also a mountain of opportunity.” As such, there are three things I believe marketers should seek to do as they operate in this increasingly feral marketing environment. Firstly, they should adopt a ‘fluid’ approach to planning and thinking. Whilst a strong core of ‘brand beliefs’ is critical, an ability to seamlessly adapt to the vagaries of the global agenda must be a priority. Gone are the days when a two-month round of research and a three-month planning cycle will help a brand get to grips with its consumers. No sooner has the plan been signed off than the consumer has moved on. Brands need to behave more like people, instinctively aware of their values and principles and able to adapt them to shifting circumstances and clearly rationalise why. This not only requires departments, systems and tools that ensure a rapid, dynamic and up to the minute delivery of insight and strategic thought but also the ability to relate a logical narrative that ties together all communications and marketing activity. This more fluid approach will help brands move at the same pace as their consumers in an era when the internet has immeasurably speeded up their lives.

More integration of social responsibility across business, marketing and product activity will help brands counter consumer cynicism that is unlikely to abate.
Secondly, brands can no longer be ‘ethical voids’, primarily concerned with selling products that satisfy basic needs. They must be more socially responsible. And by this, I don’t mean they should have a ‘CSR programme’ or plant some trees. I mean that everything they do should be underpinned not just by the commercial imperative, but also by a genuine (not box-ticking) ethical or social one. In this ‘anarconomy’ of ours, consumers and citizens will see right through any superficiality. More than ever before they know how the media works, how marketing works and how the government works. They are more informed, more intelligent and they will increasingly look for brands that display similar values to their own and kick the tyres of those they suspect do not. More integration of social responsibility across business, marketing and product activity will help brands counter a consumer cynicism that is unlikely to abate. Finally, brands need to become more ‘Brandtocratic’ – more prepared not just to have conversations with consumers but to co-create, co-operate and collaborate. As Klaus Mogensen of the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies says: “In the anarconomy there is no state authority, but things are still getting done – we’re going back to the Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance”. The Renaissance was all about great minds and great talent working together to do great things. Now that businesses have the technology to collaborate on a previously impossible level with their consumers and ‘fans’ across the world, there is an unmissable opportunity to not just crowd-source more widespread input on existing and future plans but also to develop business, product and marketing ideas that rapidly grow consumer advocacy and hence drive business growth. Businesses with a ‘beta mindset’ who are prepared to let people into their brands (within reason) will be better placed to reap the rewards of the new era. So whilst the anarconomy may feel like a scary place to live, the opportunities are endless. Whilst Mick Jagger was not thinking of brands when he said “anarchy is the only slight glimmer of hope”, there is no doubt that it does offer much hope for those brands able to adapt, be guided by ethics and co-create.

Leslie Gaines-Ross Chief Reputation Strategist

Socialising Your Brand.
Creating and nurturing a social brand is no longer optional. To be an effective social brand, a strong social governance foundation is needed. As sociability at the core of the organisation becomes fundamental, brand managers are charged with developing a strong framework for enabling meaningful social interactions that allow the best of the brand to emerge.
To better understand what makes brands social – and how it can be done most successfully, Weber Shandwick partnered with Forbes Insights to conduct an online survey among nearly 2,000 senior executives from high revenue companies across 50 countries worldwide. Executive respondents were selected for their personal involvement in marketing, communications or public relations strategy and utilisation of digital channels as part of that strategy. They are on the front lines of “brand sociability” with all its risks and rewards. The survey, which is being released this Autumn, covered many areas of brand sociability and identity. We explored the importance of sociability to brand reputation, how social media is currently being used, components of present day social media strategies, social media goals, opportunities and barriers to effectively socialising brands. Our Brand Guide to Sociability is rooted in the practices of the elite few whose activities, organisational structure, integrative nature and measurement focus are all at the high end of social brand creation. These global organisations have earned the distinction of “world class.”

57

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16

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24

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Rewards outweigh risks

Risks outweigh rewards

Risks and rewards are fairly even

Don’t know

Here are a few truths about the most distinguishing characteristics of world class social brands relative to the average global companies: 1. Companies are concentrating too hard on the medium and not enough on the substance of the brand story, identity and message. World class brands don’t depend on the medium to make them social. They strive to provide unique and engaging content that pull their fans in. As one C-level executive said, “Nothing turns off visitors more than old content.” 2. Weber Shandwick/Forbes Insights’ research found that world class social brands are pioneers — they lead their industry in the use of emerging social media tactics. Interestingly, these pioneers are so rapidly refining their “toolbox” that nearly half of them (48%) have already closed a corporate blog. World class brands realise that it is essential to test tactics and iterate or eliminate as necessary. “Failing better” is a key to success. The current focus of world class brands, by a 2-to-1 margin over the average global brand, is on mobile.

Executives managing world class social brands consider a company’s ‘global reach’ to be just as important as customer service, while the average global executive ranks it last. As an executive said, “Our social branding goals involve a very firm commitment to increase the recognition of the company’s globalisation.” Despite the rapid integration of social media into marketing plans, only a handful of global organisations are mastering its potential for brand-building. Never before have marketers been presented with the vast and meaningful audience engagement opportunities that social media offers. Yes, they have adopted the tools and they know that the rewards are plentiful. Yet, tapping into the opportunities takes careful consideration, enterprise-wide commitment and ample resource allocation. A Brand’s Guide to Sociability provides brand managers with a starting point for developing their own ‘world class’ practices for creating an authentically social brand.

Socialising Your Brand: A Brand’s Guide to Sociability
A GLOBAL STUDY BY WEBER SHANDWICK AND FORBES INSIGHTS

WO CL RLD SOC ASS BRA IAL ND S

Leslie Gaines-Ross will be joining James Warren, Chief Creative Officer, Digital and Chris Perry, President, Digital Communications to present this report at a series of seminars next month focused on building social brands. If you would like to join us at any of the following locations or simply receive a copy of the report, please contact Emma Bowen-Davies at ebowen-davies@webershandwick.com Paris Cologne The Hague Brussels Geneva Madrid Milan London November 1 November 2 November 3 November 4 November 7 November 8 November 9-10 November 11

Ben Padfield Chief Innovation Officer, EMEA

There’s Magic in the Making.
In my last passage, in this very publication, I ended with the words “we don’t have to imagine a daunting new world… we have to dare to be more imaginative in this one.” It is this sentiment that will define our future and remains as true now as when it was written four months ago.
The story goes like this. Once upon a time there was advertising. The world changed. The medium suffered. Now there is advocacy. Public Relations (for which read “advocacy through conversation”) is a central plank in the future of marketing. We are the shining light and the saving grace. Blah blah blah. But there are two problems with this PR-peddled fairytale. Firstly, that is all true, but you write off the ad agencies at your peril. They have always managed to succeed and whilst intrusive advertising is a dying art, revenues at the best ad agencies are up, not down… they’re just selling content, social and believe it or not, PR instead. The second problem is who can muster the energy to care when everyone says the same but does nothing. Rhetoric has never changed anything apart from feelings and headlines. To change something institutional, like the balance of creative power within marketing, vision and action are what is required. The glorious news is whilst our world talks, we are changing, and changing fast. The key is to build an agency that can win in a (new) Idea Economy. That is able to create the Big idea and credible enough to sell it amongst a new competitor set. You can argue we do that already. But we lack the sparkle and imagination of the best ad agencies, the rigour and critical depth of the media agencies, and the technical know-how of the specialist production shops. We need these pieces to achieve the creative destiny laid before us. The Big idea is the future battle but without new breadth we lose our right to fight. Creative, strategic and technical become our gateways to bringing bigger, better and more transformative ideas to our clients but also to guard against our desired creative supremacy being curtailed by our ever-diversifying, multi-disciplinary competitor set. Creation – our full-scale, end-to-end production business – is part of our answer to this. It was born from a very simple vision. We aspire to own the Big idea in this social, dynamic and conversational new world, as well we should. We must, however, also aspire to own as many components of them as possible. We have to become masters of not just the conception and promotion of ideas but also the production and management behind our primary form of intellectual capital. So we built Creation to do exactly that – give us the ability to make literally anything needed to bring our ideas to life, in-house. To be able to sell the idea and manage the promotion of it, but also build the app, design the site, produce the content and curate the experience around it too – whatever it takes to provide the creative and platforms that will make the idea fly not flop.

Creative, strategic and technical become our gateways to bringing bigger, better and more transformative ideas to our clients.
We also decided to be purposefully bold. Public relations agencies have often struggled with evolution as too often they play at the edges. Weber Shandwick, Europe’s most award-winning agency, is not one of them. We have built a team that dramatically scales our ability to not just produce groundbreaking ideas but provides the ability to create every component of them required. Creation’s coders & mobile developers, set designers & event producers, cameramen & editors, graphic designers & animators give us the ability to produce the content, platforms and brand experiences our clients’ audiences crave. Embedded within our creative teams we therefore have an unparalleled ability to conceive, produce, activate and measure all components behind our Big ideas, all from the comfort of our own sofa. More efficient and effective for the client, with greater quality control around the idea. When our world first saw Creation they said two things. The progressives said it was genius. One of the World’s biggest agencies broadening itself rapidly, believing in a future defined by ideas and intellectual capital, building an agency capable of delivering rich, transformative experience-based campaigns. The laggards said it had been tried before, that production was both specialist and commoditised, that it wouldn’t work. Well, we’re 143 days old now and the bold new world of Creation is already bigger than we’d anticipated. We’ve built a Big pipeline and been briefed on millions of pounds worth of work, we’ve produced Big creative ideas and mashed together technologies, creating applications for our clients that have never before been seen, we've provided solutions for almost all of our Big clients already and received Big testimonials about Creation's transformative effect. Most importantly we've already put in place a Big expansion plan that will see us grow from two-dozen production people in London to over a hundred, across four European offices within six months. Now you tell me that might not be Magic in the Making…

Laura Schoen Chair, Latin America

Jim Donaldson EVP EMEA Division ,

Latin America. Truly a Two-Way Street.
The Latin American economy has fared considerably better than many other global regions during the recent economic crisis and this positive growth should continue, according to the regional economic commission of the UN – ‘Economies of Latin America and Caribbean’ (ECLAC). Economic success has moved more global multinationals to rediscover the region. Companies are demanding a strong presence in Latin America as pre-qualification criteria for global communications, marketing and advertising assignments.
What is attracting companies to this increasingly important area? Companies are excited with the business opportunity of expanding their market share in large countries such as Mexico and Brazil, both of which have prospering populations and strong business ties to the U.S. and Europe. Other markets such as Chile, Peru and Argentina, although smaller, are also potential growth markets and more and more companies are expressing interest and demand there, as well as throughout the region in general. There is unmatched potential for organisations entering the region, particularly in key markets like Brazil, Chile and Colombia. In view of the current challenges affecting Europe and North America, Latin America offers unparalleled growth opportunities and communications can play a key role in establishing a differentiated advantage that will enable these companies to reach the highest levels of success in the region. Communications professionals with broad experience throughout Latin America are impressed with the fast pace of change in the public relations landscape in the last five years. Clearly with the booming business environment, the opportunity in Latin America to invest in public relations, beyond media relations is, indeed, now. At the same time, a key criterion for global success is development of a strong local market position. This business environment also drives opportunity for the leading Latin American companies to position themselves competitively outside the region. Strategic communications and corporate and product-specific public relations play an indispensable role in establishing a competitive image and maintaining visibility for global multinationals in Latin America and for Latin American enterprises expanding outside the region. Developing a strategic communications plan for clients, includes identifying potential advocates that can support client’s products and services in each marketplace, as well as creating corporate visibility programmes that allow companies to build valuable partnerships with important local third-party groups. Overall companies need to skillfully craft messages that help tell their story successfully through multiple channels.

In view of the current challenges affecting Europe and North America, Latin America offers unparalleled growth opportunities and communications can play a key role in establishing a differentiated advantage.
Decade of Opportunities? Only for Those Who Understand the Rules The influence and impact of public relations and international communications as a powerful marketing discipline in Latin America is just beginning to make its mark in building corporate brands and reaching out to stakeholders. There are some critical “Do’s and Don’ts” that marketers entering the Latin American region must master to create a path to success. These defining truisms should be considered in the strategic planning process. For example: • It is important to create a tailor-made offering for the region – not just adopt U.S. or global programmes. But never assume that Latin America is a monolith. Each country has to be analysed and approached individually. • Executives cannot ignore the importance of building strong relationships with leaders in the political, business, economic and professional arenas in each country. • It is essential to evaluate, understand and address the specific needs of each constituency on a country-by-country basis. • Last but not least, executives must also speak the language, as well as learn the customs, culture, norms and taboos – and even the relevant trade legislation. Following these principles will enable companies to shape a strategic message that makes possible for the entering organisation to assume a leadership position in the region. The Other Side of the Equation: Establishing a Global Foothold Based on the common experience of emerging market companies that have made a mark for themselves globally, there are five ‘absolute truths’ about how companies from developing markets, like Latin America, must approach communications in the wider, global environment. They are critical for both the public and private sector. They must: • Focus, taking time to think about which markets outside the home market represent the most powerful communications opportunities – and risks. • Learn how to talk about themselves to make the international community aware of the significance of global companies from developing markets. • Understand the specific needs and touch points of local markets and appropriate ways to deal with audiences in different markets – but remain consistent with themes and messages. Overall, the region’s growing importance is driving more multinational companies to focus on strategic planning to enter Latin America and at the same time, Latin American companies to market outward. Successful brand building for organisations and their products within and outside of Latin America requires an in-depth knowledge of the area and a healthy respect for its culture.

In September Weber Shandwick acquired majority control of S2Publicom, ranked among the top five public relations firms in Brazil. The operation will represent an important part of Weber Shandwick growth plans in the region. For more details, please visit here.

Ziad Hasbani Managing Director, Weber Shandwick | MENA

Between the Arab Spring and the Downgrade in the U.S. Debt Rating. A Dubai Perspective.
In a sprawling middle-income housing neighbourhood in Dubai, its leading real estate agent is feeling bullish. “Four hundred families are moving into this area every month. I think the media should know about it. Why don’t you set up an interview for me? I will tell them how Dubai is back.” He embodies a trader spirit that has regained its confidence, oblivious to news of the U.S. debt rating downgrade and the jitters felt by a globalised executive.
The four pillars of Dubai’s economy – trading, tourism, property and retail – have stabilised or are growing again. Its ports have seen traffic rise 14 per cent on last year, bank deposits have climbed to their highest level in more than two years, close to 100 property projects are back on track and its economy is projected to expand by 3.5 per cent this year. The Arab Spring has also brought benefits to its tourism industry, with Dubai hotel occupancy rates touching 82 per cent in the first six months of 2011. Even index provider MSCI has considered reclassifying the United Arab Emirates from ‘frontier’ to ‘emerging market.’ With construction costs down 40 per cent on 2008, interest rates low, banks beginning to offer mortgages again after a two-year freeze and population rising due to political unrest from Casablanca to New Delhi, many here believe that the scene is set for another Dubai boom. IPSOS estimates that advertising expenditures in the Middle East increased by 12.2 per cent from January to April 2011. With the communications role of social media in the Arab Spring openly acknowledged, clients are waking up to this critical channel and social media expenditures are expected to grow by 50 per cent this year. As the Holy Month of Ramadan ended, marketing executives predicted a stable Q3 and Q4. Hiring has begun again, marketing budgets are increasing and categories from detergents to luxury cars are reporting rising sales, hence expectations of stability. But how much do Dubai and the wider Middle East economies expect to really suffer due to the U.S. debt downgrade? It is true that the ultra-wealthy in the Middle East, who have parked their money in various financial instruments around the world, are hurting by the US$2.5 trillion that was wiped off global capital markets in the first week of the downgrade. It is also true that economists are busy painting doomsday scenarios, warning of excessive exposure to certain sectors. And the Middle East IPO and M&A markets are running at historic lows as investor confidence is now amoebic rather than amorphous. The latest economic woes over in the United States and Europe seem, so far anyway, to have bypassed the communications industry here in the Middle East. The Arab Spring has seen a re-routing of business and tourism to Dubai from other Arab countries affected by political unrest. The slowdown of trade and traffic from the West has been compensated for by growth in traffic flowing in from the tiger economies of the East – China, India and Korea, and Japan. In our Dubai business, which is at the heart of our operation in the Arab world, we are witnessing a kind of stability that gives us confidence that global economic turbulence will have limited impact here. We feel that the follow-on effects of the U.S.-EU recession will be short lived at best because of three fundamental reasons. First, we have a stable economy, less intertwined with the global economy than previously as the Dubai debt overhang has reduced our links to the West. Our established infrastructure is a magnet for global and expanding organisations from the developing world trying to get a foothold in the Middle East and Africa region. This will bring in continued communications investment in future. Secondly, local companies who only previously knew the boom-times and who subsequently were hit hard by the financial crisis of 2008 have cleaned up their acts and are now ready to invest in communications to help grow market share. We believe that major chunks of new business will increasingly come from these entities in addition to new local brands coming on-line. Lastly, we have worked hard to raise our quality of delivery to compare to the best in the world, as borne out by our success with various international industry awards. Business that was earlier sent to other markets will remain within the region. So while the real estate agent brims again with confidence and dreams of bonus windfalls, economic events of the last few years have taught us perhaps to take a more cautious outlook. As a city founded on opportunistic passing trade between Europe and India, however, Dubai is famous for its bullish ‘he who dares, wins’ mindset. The world may have changed around us all but, in the eyes of many here, Dubai is ‘back.’

Andrew Ager Deputy Head of Sport, UK

Are You Feeling Olympic?
I have been lucky enough to witness first hand, three very different Olympic Games. Athens 2004 was a chance for the Olympic family to take time to reflect on the Games’ origins. It didn’t generate the revenues of Sydney 2000 but the Games returning to their spiritual home was something special. The Vancouver Winter Olympics of 2010, where red mittens ruled and a whole nation woke up one morning and decided to get behind their athletes – the sudden realisation half-way through week one of the Games that one of the greatest sporting events was being played out in their own backyard was infectious. And, of course, London 2012.
The year-to-go celebrations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have both now passed. Test events have shown that the majority of the venues are ready. The Olympic Park looks stunning, Westfield Stratford City has opened its doors, athletes are fine-tuning at world championship events in their respective sports – gearing up for the all important Olympic qualification camps and competitions later this year and early next – everyone has an Olympic ticket story be it good or bad, giant sets of Olympic Rings are popping up across the capital and Wenlock and Mandeville (the Olympic mascots) stare out at you from merchandise at Heathrow, Paddington and St Pancras. You definitely get the feeling the anticipation and excitement is building. We are now at the business end of London 2012. But, for me question marks still remain over whether sponsors have done enough, or are doing enough, to capture consumers' and the media's attention. There are 41 official Partners, Supporters, Providers and Suppliers to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (not including the 11 IOC Worldwide Partners). They range from some of the world’s largest brands to small specialised service providers. Yet they all have one thing in common – they have invested a significant amount of money in acquiring the rights to leverage and exploit the Olympic Games. Of course, the rights differ depending on the tiering of a company’s sponsorship investment. However, the rights that they have been afforded represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell a story, to create a name for themselves, to deliver real differentiation from their many competitors and which provide a sense of ‘clear-air’ around their brand communications. These rights and opportunities are protected by law, with the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, and they should be capitalised on.

We are now at the business end of London 2012. But, for me question marks still remain over whether sponsors have done enough, or are doing enough, to capture consumers’ and the media’s attention.
To my mind, partners need to be doing more. They need to be doing it with a greater sense of belief, excitement and purpose, and they should be pushing boundaries. To date, it seems like Olympic partners are box ticking: generic ambassador – tick; use of London 2012 logo – tick; tell us an Olympic-related story and you can win a ticket – tick; employee programme to motivate and mobilise a workforce using the Olympics – tick. It’s not very exciting, is it? What would be, is a brand breaking ranks to deliver a truly engaging and creative piece of communication that takes its inspiration from the extraordinary thing that is the Olympic and Paralympic Games. All eyes are on London, arguably one of the most creative cities in the world. All eyes are on the communications specialists, brand marketers and marketing directors who have this remarkable asset for one time only. The Olympic Games are a celebration of the best-of-the-best, be it sporting excellence or culture. My plea to sponsors is this – go on, do something out of the ordinary, create Ideas That Grow, ideas that have a life beyond the original conception and can be shared and travel through all channels and live beyond the Games. In short, do something Olympic.
Originally published September 2011 in PRWeek

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Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in 74 markets around the world. With a deep commitment to client service, creativity and collaboration, we harness the power of Advocates – engaging stakeholders in new and creative ways to build brands and reputation. www.webershandwick.com

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