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How to get your Olympic marketing right

How to get your Olympic marketing right

Fred Burt, Siegel+Gale Managing Director, London Office examines the opportunities for brands during the Olympics – and some advice to make sure your brand gets the most from any association.

With Beijing in full flight and minds beginning to turn to London, it’s a great time to be thinking about brands, and the role they play in the Olympics. 

There are three key types of brand we need to think of when looking at brand building within the Olympics.

The first, and most obvious, are the sponsors and advertisers. Much will have been written about this - I’ll leave aside the need for breakthrough creative, for example, which in my mind is a given.

Here are four key observations however which I think are key strategic issues brand owners need to address.

1. Make sure you have a established, genuinely international brand.

The Olympics is not the forum to launch a new brand.  Local market ring holder rights, as well as national team sponsorships can be more cost effective if your brand is regional or local.  AT&T, for example, sponsors the US Olympic team as their brand (certainly their consumer brand) is a US brand.

2. Find the hook that’s relevant to your brand.

If you are trying to make a relevant point about your brand, in the context of an Olympic story, keep making that point after the games finish.  The Olympics should be seen as a means to communicating something special about your brand in an interesting way.  That ‘special something’ should not expire at the closing ceremony.

3. Don’t launch a new brand by associating it with the Olympics.

It’s tempting to think of the eyeballs as a great way of making a big splash, but evidence suggests otherwise.  Do consider the games as an opportunity to reposition yourself, or to give your customers a reason to reconsider or reassess you.

4.  Finally, think of the networking.

Beijing has every major head of state visiting it during these three weeks, not to mention thousands of senior executives keen to meet them and each other.  The B2B value of being involved as a brand in the games can be invaluable.

The second type of brand we need to consider is the host city.  These games have been a huge opportunity for Beijing to reposition itself, and China, on the world stage.
The benefits for Chinese business will be significant as the concept of “Made In China” is likely to have been completely reframed.

And of course there is the internal effect of the games, something we as non-Chinese don’t experience directly.  The sense I have is that the people of Beijing are thrilled to be the hosts, and there is a tremendous sense of civic pride that has been harnessed through these games.  I consume my Chinese media with a large pinch of salt, of course.

These internal considerations are important when we think ahead to 2012 and what the internal impact of the London games will be to London and the UK.  The London Organising Committee will need to work hard to demonstrate exactly what the sense of inclusion and inspiration that they promise is going to mean for Londoners

Finally, there is the Olympics brand itself. It’s easy to forget that this is a brand that requires tight management and consistent renewal to remain relevant.  It must remain true to itself, first and foremost and not lose sight of the reason why sponsors were interested in being involved.

The Olympic ideals, the spirit of the games, the anticipation beforehand, the legacy the games leave afterwards, all these issues need to be accrued for the Olympics brand so that it is seen as a force for good, not just an event.

Over-commercialising the games will signal its death knell. The Olympics must remain a values-driven brand that touches people in a fundamental and emotional way, not a cynically created marketing platform for global brands.

Finally a thought for uTalkMarketing readers. Web 2.0 provides some acute challenges for brands like the Olympics that derive much of their money from sponsorship.

At Siegel+Gale, we exhort our clients to accept that their brands are no longer in their direct control and the days of ‘tell and sell’ are long gone.  How does this square up with a sponsorship property, where exclusivity is paramount?  Ambush tactics remain popular, more so now with the web being a key medium, and the IOC needs to reassure lead sponsors that it is able to tackle these and maintain a robust business model.

When the torch is handed over at the closing ceremony, attention will turn to London. What kind of games will London provide?

For my money, it will need to be a purer games, with less focus on politics and global business, and more focus on the essence of the games themselves and the positive impact they can make.  Let’s see.

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