With less than a year until the Games, there are still ways for marketers to associate their brand with the excitement, write Rachel Barnes and John Reynolds.
The brands at London 2012 51 weeks to go
The news that LOCOG is closing in on its pounds 700m sponsorship target for the Olympics is no doubt a relief for organisers, but marketers would be wrong to think the London 2012 door is now closed to their brands. In fact, the opportunities are still plentiful, although the clock is ticking.
LOCOG does not hold the copyright either for sport or all things 2012, no matter how strict the regulations, so brands should not be deterred from creating momentous campaigns that tap into the celebratory mood.
Next year's 'unique cultural happening' is not confined to the Olympics, according to Phil Bourne, chief executive of integrated agency Arnold KLP. The year itself 'is even bigger than the world's biggest sporting event', he says, due to events including the Queen's diamond jubilee, which, he believes, will bring a fresh sense of optimism (see box, opposite page).
From targeting a potentially neglected female market to ensuring that their social media voice cuts through the Olympic chatter, consumer brands can still have a slice of the Olympic buzz.
Even Olympic-centred opportunities spread beyond LOCOG, with Team GB and athletes all striking official sponsorship deals. Also each participating country has its own sponsors or partners; associated brands can create events to celebrate the successes of individuals or countries (see box, below).
'There is nothing to prevent a brand undertaking activity that does not explicitly claim an association with the event,' says Li Li Leung, managing director at sports agency Helios Partners.
'It's possible to get into the 'thematic space' without crossing the line,' echoes Tim Crow, chief executive of sport sponsorship agency Synergy. 'What Nestle is doing with diver Tom Daley and its 'Get set go free' campaign (despite not being an official 2012 sponsor) is a great example.'
Moreover, beyond sponsors in tiers one and two, there are still options for brands to get on board through official routes. 'Brands in a niche industry could still negotiate a good partnership with LOCOG,' says Robin Fenwick, managing director of sports marketing firm Right Formula He suggests that brands should try to thrash out cut-price deals, reflecting the 'shorter period of benefit'.
Fenwick also suggests airspace as an area LOCOG cannot control effectively. 'A brand could liaise with a private residence and fly a branded balloon above areas of high footfall.'
LOCOG continues to be in negotiations to find a sponsor for the Olympic stadium wrap, one of the last high-profile opportunities for a sponsor Other official options include associations with specific sports.
'There are many national governing bodies still looking for sponsorship, such as British Gymnastics and British Boxing,' says Angus McGougan, business director at Fast Track. 'This is a platform to associate yourself with one of Britain's high-profile sports.'
While non-sponsors will have to think carefully, and perhaps laterally, about their marketing next year, the opportunity for brands to align themselves with the celebrations is huge.
THE ANTI-COMPETITIVE OLYMPICS
Marketers could be criminalised for standard business practice and falling foul of London 2012 legislation, warns The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
In its paper, 'Ambush Marketing and the Law', the body considers how companies can gain reflective economic benefit from the event without flouting the rules.
Beyond ambush marketing, CIM chief executive Roderick Wilkes says the non-sponsors' rights are a grey area. 'Businesses could miss (out) unless a rational balance is struck between sponsors and non-sponsors,' he adds. …