Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: On the Road with the Olympic Torch

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: On the Road with the Olympic Torch

Article excerpt

2004's Olympic Torch Relay is the world's biggest experiential marketing drive. Daniel Rogers joins the tour for a day

What could be a more glamorous job in marketing than escorting the Olympic flame around the world in a specially tailored jumbo jet?

In fact, as I look around the Olympic Torch Relay team this morning - up at 5am for the seventh day in a row, and facing a schedule of bus transfer, flight and another bus transfer before the relay begins in Rome - almost any other job in marketing looks more glamorous.

'It's Monday, so I guess we must be in Barcelona Airport,' sighs one of the team wearily before climbing aboard the Olympics-branded Boeing 747, where her month-long supply of clothes resides on a small seat in the 35th row.

By the time the plane reaches its cruising altitude, most of the 110-strong team are asleep, sprawled out across seats, their official passes and promotional caps strewn around them. They look suddenly blissfully unaware of the sacred Olympic flame, mounted a few feet away on the interior wall of the plane, divided into three oil-burning lanterns to keep it from going out.

'On this schedule you've got to grab any sleep you can,' says David Brooks, director of the Olympic Torch Relay for the Coca-Cola Company. Coke is a presenting sponsor, along with Samsung.

Brooks describes Coke's sponsorship of the relay team, which has been co-ordinated by field marketing agency Ignition, as 'the world's biggest experiential marketing campaign.'

The team revives as we touch down in Rome. The local mayor is on a podium as a marching band booms out the Italian national anthem. It's already 30 degrees outside. 'It's going to be a hot one today,' warns Brooks.

The field marketers around him nod warily.

The Rome leg is fairly typical of the relay so far. It involves the ceremonial arrival of the flame, an event at the Olympic Stadium, a tour of city landmarks and a party in the Piazza di Siena.

The Olympic Games is the real brand on show, updated for the 21st century with a high-tech torch. The brand values, according to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), are 'hope, dreams and inspiration, joy in effort, friendship and fair play', with a relay strapline 'Pass the flame, unite the world'. …

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