Research showing that FIFA World Cup 2010 sponsors failed to make much impact on the British public is being seen as a salutary warning for London 2012 Olympic Games partners planning PR strategies around their sponsorships.
Echo Research polled 1,002 adults across Britain. It found that respondents struggled to identify eight World Cup sponsors from a list of well-known brands.
No sponsor was correctly identified by more than half of those polled, with recognition highest for Coca-Cola (48 per cent) and McDonald's (40 per cent). Only 15 per cent picked out Hyundai.
In addition, Nike was wrongly identified as being a World Cup sponsor by 20 per cent of adults polled. Respondents believed sponsors were motivated less by concern for football, South Africa and its people, and more by hard-headed commercial goals.
Threepipe Sport director Eddie May said: 'The issue facing sponsors is that so many other brands use the event as a platform for major marketing activity, so in many cases their direct competitors will be just as visible as the sponsor.
'It's interesting that sponsors with the highest recall, Coca-Cola and McDonald's, are arguably those with the most long-term, consistent approach and are very visible elsewhere in football.'
Meanwhile, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment CEO Steve Martin noted that Nike's work in the social media sphere would have helped reach more consumers and explained why it was picked out mistakenly.
The publication of the research coincides with the two-year countdown to the London 2012 Olympic Games that began earlier this week. Brands have already started ramping up their sponsorship opportunities (see box below).
Hill & Knowlton sports marketing & sponsorship MD Andy Sutherden said: 'Interest in London 2012 will increase, making sponsorship more relevant to the customers of commercial brands. But members of the public will expect deeper, more relevant dialogue than we have seen. The successful Olympic sponsors are likely to be those that find a meaningful way to link their brand to the Games and offer something genuinely of interest to their customers.'
Pitch account director Simon Bristow said brands wanting to maximise their partnership should 'own' a certain consumer sector rather than going head-to-head with other sponsors looking to engage the entire market.
HOW I SEE IT
Sophia Antoniades, Consumer PR manager, British Airways
The Games are relevant to us as a brand for three reasons - for the commercial opportunity, for internal engagement with our employees and for our brand image. It gives us the chance to promote the brand alongside the most high-profile sporting event in the world.
Ian Budd, Senior associate, Total Sponsorship, Burson-Marsteller
With 2012 set to be the first mass social media summer Games, sponsors will be looking at how to use this channel effectively and, where possible, apply learnings from the World Cup. It will be opportunities like this that sponsors will be looking to exploit as we count down.
70k - Number of volunteers needed to support the Games*
*Source: London 2012 website
728 - Days to go until the Olympic Games begin
1.4m - The number of people who have registered for Olympic tickets**
£9.3bn - Budget to host the 2012 Olympics in London**
**Source: BBC News