Olympic Sponsorship: Remember the Positives
30th July, 2012
Whilst awareness of Olympic-association is of course growing for official sponsors of the Games, the recent controversy surrounding LOCOG’s increasingly stringent sponsorship policies and the subsequent public outrage is resulting in certain sponsorships becoming dangerously close to having an adverse effect on certain brands – quite a significant problem after investing hundreds of millions with the aim of using the platform to enhance brand perceptions.
Although some sponsors may have demanded a little too much exclusivity i.e. Visa and McDonalds, the latest issues have taken complaints to a new level. The first concerns Coca-Cola and Lord Coe’s comment stating that attendees ‘probably wouldn’t be walking in (to the Olympic Village) with a Pepsi T-shirt’ which is, of course, ridiculous. Despite the off-chance of hundreds of fans herding into the Village wearing Pepsi-branded clothing, this would have miniscule, if any, effect on either brands’ perception or the Olympic campaigns, activations and initiatives executed by Coca-Cola. The second issue is the numerous events proving to be half empty due to ticket allocations not being utilised – this resulting in understandable public outrage however the blame spreads across multiple parties including National Olympic Committees, the IOC and the media in addition to sponsors.
With a negative cloud beginning to descend over the concept of sponsorship in general, I wanted to add to the refreshing comments of Evening Standard Editor, Sarah Sands’ recent article shedding some light on why ‘sponsors are the good guys not the villains’.
On the whole, sponsors are providing vital products and services to the Olympics whilst simultaneously raising awareness of the event in all corners of the world. Acer, the official computing equipment partner of the Games, has been responsible for the installation of an enormous technology infrastructure – no small feat and a significant cost saved for LOCOG. Likewise for GE who have contributed heavily towards key infrastructures across transportation, energy, lighting and medical equipment. Coca-Cola, despite the controversy over branding and health, have invested millions in grass roots sports and vow that 75% of their products consumed at the Games will be sugar-free. With significant value being added by all Olympic partners, the positives of sponsorship significantly outweigh the negatives. (Of course, there is also the added benefit that they provide hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue and in turn lower the cost of the Games to the tax-payer.)
It is important to remember that the art of successful sponsorship is creating a relationship that simultaneously benefits the sponsor, the audience and the rights holder with it ultimately being the responsibility of the latter i.e. LOCOG to get as close to this harmonious balance as possible.
The Olympic Committee is evidently yet to find this balance with certain partners but when weighing up the pros and cons, sponsors cannot be viewed as the bad guys. After all, despite recently sympathising with protesters, Jacques Rogge hits the nail on the head when stating that “Quite simply, staging the Olympic Games would not be possible without our partners.”