The London Olympics: Marking the ‘Coming of Age’ for Sponsorship 25th April, 2012

Sponsorship is undoubtedly an exciting industry to be a part of at the moment – and it’s not just due to all of the outside media attention surrounding the London Olympics and its various sponsors.  Granted that some of the individual sponsorship campaigns around London 2012 are fantastic in themselves; but what stands out, from a sponsorship agency’s perspective, is the universal shift in the way brands are approaching sponsorship and the remarkable levels of engagement that brands can create from such collaborations.  A wide range of companies, from British Airways to McDonald’s, have launched a series of highly interactive campaigns designed specifically to get the customer using, tasting, watching, listening and experiencing their products through the Olympic platform.

Have these campaigns only come about because the need for cut through and ROI is so vital due to the high investment of the Olympic sponsorship rights?  Are creative sponsorship campaigns only to be seen during this period before reverting back to the more ‘conventional’ strands of sponsorship, such as branding & hospitality?

Unlike naysayers in the industry, I believe that the sponsorship campaigns being created are the culmination of a growing trend of brands realising that well-positioned partnerships can offer far more engagement with a highly targeted audience across multiple media channels, than straight advertising or PR alone.

Cadbury’s activation of its Olympic sponsorship rights is a great illustration of this shift.  The ‘Spot vs Stripes’ competition encompasses all forms of marketing and engages with the public far more than an advertisement campaign ever could.  In fact, it all started with an advert – a 2 minute spectacle of animated marine-creatures, divided up into spots and stripes, participating in an underwater frenzy of Olympic-esque competition.   Viewers were then urged to logon ( to join a team and compete in online games and earn points for their given side.  Players could also earn points through taking part in physical competitions, like crazy golf, as well as downloading games to play offline.  Hundreds of thousands of people took up the challenge and interacted with the Cadbury’s brand, albeit without a chocolate bar in sight!

When the focus point of this campaign – the Cadbury’s Challenge Bar – hit the shelves everyone had already chosen sides and was fully familiarised with the concept, guaranteeing cut-through to an audience that otherwise may have been reluctant to try another new Cadbury’s product.  The bar itself, was divided up into 3 pieces; one piece each with spots or stripes on, with the middle piece tobe contested for via further games printed on the inside of the wrapper.  The winner of the game won the middle piece and was also able to claim points back for their given side online.

From start to finish, this sponsorship activation campaign was a huge success.  Cadbury’s capitalised on their partnership with the Olympics through interaction and competition – engaging with their audience through digital, social and physical.

This is the future of sponsorship.