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How to best cash in on the London 2012 Olympics

How to best cash in on the London 2012 Olympics

By Dan Mintz, founder and chief creative officer of DMG (Dynamic Marketing Group), in China (

The Beijing Olympics have been a triumph, it’s been show-stopping stuff from start to finish and here in China there is immense pride at the fact that Team China dominated the medals table.

As the dust settles after the excitement of events on the track, it’s time for a period of reflection and forward planning for 2012. If Beijing has taught sponsors anything it is to plan for the pitfalls as well as the perceived benefits.

With more than 50 global sponsors at Beijing 2008 – the largest ever for an Olympiad – and with an audience well over a billion in China alone, advertisers had a unique opportunity and a unique headache.

The internet was both the biggest threat and opportunity for China. There are currently more than 200,000 sites on the internet calling for a boycott of sponsors, so managing brand reputation online has been and will continue to be a major test for marketers.

The counterpoint is that 2008 was the first truly digital Olympics. The global online audience got their daily sports fix via official outlets such as NBC, MSN, iPlayer, or  YouTube . for example offered sponsors the chance to get involved with its live and archived coverage of the Games. Advertisers could run pre-roll advertising, banners and interact with users on some 2,200 hours of live events and an estimated 3,000 hours of highlights video.

And when Chinese hurdling hero Liu Xiang pulled out of the 110 metres there were 27 million stories about him on Baidu, the dominant Chinese search engine, within 24 hours.

The importance of online can’t be underestimated for London 2012.  NBC estimated audiences of 25 million users in the first week of Beijing – more than watched the whole of the Athens Olympic online.

In week one NBC said visitors to its site viewed 456m pages and watched close to 22m video clips. Expect the figures to rise exponentially once again in 2012.

As the IOC bans major trackside advertising, running ads around online footage seems to be a winner, particularly as the time difference deterred many fans from watching live TV coverage.

In fact the only branding in the stadia was the kit being worn by the athletes. Equally visible in the TV and online broadcasts, helping brands such as Nike, Puma as well as official kit provider Adidas. 

I worked with Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games and several Olympic sponsors and my advice to them can be summarised in ten points that anyone looking ahead to 2012 should bear in mind.

1. The fact that you’re spending millions is meaningless to the security team. Any promises made at the outset will probably not materialise if they clash with the need to provide security.

2. Start early – at least two years before the Games commence and layer in activity right up to the opening ceremony.

3. Take your activation and manpower budget and double it.

4. Strike a smarter deal with the IOC than the one they offer you initially. Keep pushing. Research how others have activated and make sure your rights cover all activation scenarios.

5. Understand the politics.  Being a sponsor gives you no sway, you need as many connections with the organising committee as possible. 

6. In Beijing the smog was a key issue, in 2012 it will probably be rain. Think branded umbrellas and pac-a-macs (as the Closing Ceremony London dancers demonstrated).

7. Guerrilla marketing is a threat to official sponsors but also an opportunity for anyone else – Li Ning, who runs the sports brand of the same name, opened the Olympics in a textbook guerrilla coup after being selected to light the flame at the opening ceremony.

8. How will you connect? Badging your ads is not enough. Too many brands are disconnected so think experientially. For Nike we created a nationwide experiential campaign that starred the USA basketball team and a unifying call to action “Zhan Qi Lai” at a youth basketball championship.

9. Don’t ignore the follow-up. How do you build on your activity to create a legacy for your brand after the closing ceremony?

10. There’s no money-back guarantee with Olympic sponsorship. Like the athletes, brands only have one opportunity to get it right on the biggest global sporting platform of all.

All of which leads to my final piece of advice: official association does confer advantages but you can't simply rely on the glow of good feeling towards the games.

Once again a host of brands have wasted their money and with four big names pulling out of 2012 – including Kodak, which has been an Olympic sponsor since 1896 - marketing directors need to ask themselves some serious questions.

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