Magazine article Marketing

Sponsors on the Starting Blocks

Magazine article Marketing

Sponsors on the Starting Blocks

Article excerpt

Examining the findings of the first of three Marketing/Interbrand surveys, Alan Mitchell probes consumer reaction to brand ties with the London 2012 Olympic Games.

This isn't a 100m sprint. It's more like a gruelling marathon: an intensely competitive, crowded field jostling for advantage across an arduous terrain. With this in mind, Marketing has teamed up with Interbrand to track brands' fortunes before, during and after the Olympics race. Not all will win gold. Some could face humiliation. All will struggle to succeed. So, as anticipation mounts, how does the starting line-up look?

Let's start with an apparently simple question: what is an Olympic sponsor? Despite (or, perhaps, because of) the International Olympic Committee's best efforts, it turns out there is no simple, clear answer.

First, there are Worldwide Olympic Partners, which have a long-term association with the Games from one set to another. This elite group includes Acer, Atos, Coca-Cola, Dow, GE, Omega, Procter & Gamble, Panasonic, Samsung and Visa.

Then there's a group of 'tier-one' brands sponsoring just London 2012: Adidas, BMW, BP, British Airways, BT, EDF and Lloyds TSB. Below that, there are London Olympic Supporters: Adecco, ArcelorMittal, Cadbury, Cisco, Deloitte, Thomas Cook and UPS.

Oh, then there's another layer of official 'providers and suppliers' - 28 of them, from Aggreko through Heathrow Airport, Heineken and Holiday Inn, via John Lewis and Next through to Ticketmaster and Westfield. That takes us to 52 sponsoring brands; with Paralympics-only sponsors such as Sainsbury's and Otto Bock, the prosthetics manufacturer, the number rises further still.

For anyone trying to fathom the sponsorship pecking order, however, that's just the beginning. Behind the ranks of 'pure' Olympics sponsors lies another crowded field. Many of the competing teams have their own sponsors; Team Sky in cycling, for example. Individual athletes also have personal sponsorship deals, which they carry through to Olympic publicities. Usain Bolt's deals include Puma, Gatorade, Hublot watches, Visa and Virgin Media. Jessica Ennis is sponsored by Adidas, Aviva, British Airways, BP, Jaguar, Powerade, Olay and Omega. Some of them are official Olympic sponsors, others not. All are fighting for recognition and publicity.

Meanwhile, other sporting events such as Euro 2012 have been under way At a time of shrinking consumer attention spans, all this matters. 'This summer is full of sponsorship opportunities,' notes Interbrand UK chief executive Graham Hales. 'You have to look across the calendar and decide when to dial up the volume. Some have (yet to do so).'

So how are the main brands doing as they limber up for their own Olympics marathon?

Mixed messages

Our 'spontaneous recall' table (see page 26) shows which brands UK consumers associate with the Olympics on an unprompted basis. Coca-Cola and McDonald's come out on top. These market leaders are the only sponsoring brands to achieve spontaneous recall figures above 25%. Beyond this there are high levels of confusion. Barclays and Nike are not Olympic sponsors, but one in 10 consumers thinks they are, ahead of official sponsors British Airways, BP and BMW.

Some brands, such as Cadbury and UPS, which paid relatively small sums to be associated as 'supporters', are scoring higher than main sponsors. Cadbury is ahead of both BA and P&G, for example. 'Cadbury has made significant effort with its Olympics (tie) over the past two years,' notes Hales. Meanwhile, five top-tier sponsors achieved only 2% or lower spontaneous recall. 'It's still early days for lots of brands,' he argues.

In prompted recall (see page 26), the waters get even muddier. When reminded of various brands, a quarter of consumers think Nike and Sky are Olympic sponsors. They are not. Other brands benefiting from high rates of misattribution include HSBC, Tesco, Carlsberg, Orange, Canon, Guinness and Hyundai. …

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