Marketing Research at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games

Article excerpt

Introduction

As researchers, opportunities to collect qualitative and quantitative data at major events that have vast reach and global following (i.e., 'mega-events') are rare, challenging and resource intensive in nature. This, coupled with the facts that (1) the existing number of true sport mega-events (e.g., Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon, the Masters, Grey Cup, Commonwealth Games, Super Bowl) is low in relation to the cities seeking to host such events and (2) the resources for research tend to be more readily available around the hosting of a mega-events, renders the occurrence of a mega-event in your home country or region highly important for researchers. Depending on the nature of one's research and the specific mega-event in question, the famous phrase of 'a once in a lifetime opportunity' may fit this situation.

Although the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, Canada did not host until the Montreal Olympic Summer Games in 1976. Since Montreal, Canada has hosted the Olympic Winter Games twice, in Calgary in 1988 and Vancouver in 2010. Prospects of a second hosting of the Summer Games remain far off as best, following two failed bids by the city of Toronto for the 1996 and 2008 Summer Games. And although speculation currently exists about a Quebec City bid for an upcoming Winter Games for 2022 or perhaps 2026, a competitive bid process would have to be overcome. Some simple math on Canada demonstrates the challenges facing an Olympic researcher. If one considers that a typical researcher career post-doctorate is 30 years in length, then any Canadian researcher who completed his or her doctorate before 1946 or after 1977 would not have had the opportunity to do research on an Olympic Summer Games hosted in Canada. If the researcher's interests were 'niched' towards winter sport, then a researcher who completed his or her doctorate prior to 1958 would not have had the opportunity, although those whose doctorates were completed between 1990 and 2018 would have had access to the Winter Olympic Games twice.

Thus, as with any rare opportunity, planning and understanding the nature of such an event is required if one is to maximize the benefits of such opportunity. In the context of hosting an Olympic Games, interest from the public, governments and corporations are high. When considering the amount of public dollars invested in such an event, sport (event) management research becomes essential for a number of reasons including evaluation, policy, legacy and learning. The uniqueness and the scope of an event like Olympic Games also provide access to funding sources that may not otherwise be available for researchers. In this case, timing becomes essential as the Games only last 16 days. This limited timeline requires researchers to properly time pre-, post- and during Games data collections. With this reality as the context, this paper reports on the sport marketing research projects undertaken by the authors during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Mega-Events

Although there is little written in peer-reviewed sources on mega-events, (1) it is established that they play an important role in an emerging, media-based global culture. (2) Similarly, it is established that mega-events provide vast and influential reach to corporate sponsors and media partners which in turn generates considerable amount of resources. (3) Further, the Product-Country-Image (PCI) literature has demonstrated that major events can positively affect a country's image. (4) Thus, from a research perspective, it is clear that mega-events offer a context that could be described as 'unique' for research learning, methods and analysis.

Research at Vancouver 2010

As three researchers, the authors were involved with a variety of research projects related to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games organized under four themes (or streams) of research. First, is a line of research related to a large government-funded project (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) related to country images and the Olympic Games' ability to improve both global tourist intentions and sponsor images. …