Henry Chappell, Pitch: Why 2012 is about winning

For athletes and sponsors alike, the London Olympics are about winning, not taking part.

Henry Chappell, Pitch: Why 2012 is about winning
Henry Chappell, Pitch: Why 2012 is about winning

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, said: 'The essential thing in life is not to have conquered but to have fought well.' Or in other words, it's not about the winning, but the taking part.

But judging by the four years of meticulous planning that Sally Hancock has put into Lloyds TSB's activation of a sponsorship of a certain 17-day sports event in east London, De Coubertin's grand ideal couldn't be further from the truth. Because when it comes to the Olympic Games nowadays, it really isn't just about the taking part. Instead, whether in terms of the medal table for Team GB or return on investment for sponsors, it's all about the winning.

So, as we approach the home strait in the great Olympic gold rush that is London 2012, who are going to be the biggest winners?

Leading the pack will be the sponsors that, like Lloyds TSB, have created a distinctive comms platform long before the Games take place and have managed to link themselves to the success of London 2012. McDonald's innovative involvement with the London 2012 Organising Committee's brilliant volunteering programme, and Coca-Cola putting youth and music at the heart of its association with the torch relay, are two other examples of brands that have devised a winning strategic plan for their sponsorship activation from an early stage.

Bear in mind that this is the most commercially successful Olympic Games in history. The organising committee has done an exceptional job in securing more than 40 commercial partners for the Games in the UK, in addition to the International Olympic Committee's 11 global sponsors. As a result it may be the most cluttered marketing environment ever. Sponsors that haven't carved out a unique, 'ownable' brand positioning by now will be struggling to have made any impact come Games time.

Another big winner from London 2012 is the media sector. For British newspaper and radio groups, or international digital media platforms such as Yahoo, Facebook or Twitter, the Olympics taking place in one of the world's biggest cities is going to be a huge driver of both audience and advertising revenue. The commercial opportunity is particularly relevant because, unusually for an Olympic Games, the host broadcaster is a non-commercial channel.

The perception of disability in this country will also be improved by London 2012. The Paralympic Games will receive unprecedented media coverage. To put this in perspective, only a couple of British sports journalists covered the Paralympic Games in Beijing 2008. Next year, PA alone will have a team of more than 20 journalists covering the event round the clock. Channel 4's coverage of the event will provide a fresh approach to the presentation of paralympic sport.

More broadly, I believe London will also benefit hugely from hosting the Games. Aside from the regeneration of a vast swathe of east London, the amount of positive media exposure the city will receive across the globe will be beyond precedent. For local businesses, including London-based PR agencies, the injection of much needed new revenue in otherwise challenging economic times will be invaluable.

But the biggest winner of all, of course, is sport. Right across the industry, the Olympics coming to this country has been a catalyst for growth, development and inspiration ever since London was awarded the Games back in 2005. And this benefit will continue for years to come.


What is the key to great sponsorship activation?

The development of exclusive, branded, engaging content delivered in a creative and integrated way.

What style of comms will most successfully link a brand to London 2012?

One that captures the mood of the nation. The Olympics is historically a time of patriotic celebration for the host nation, but the organisers have steered away from this. Brands that call this right will engage with consumers.

Which Olympic sport most closely resembles your business philosophy?

The marathon. Because it is, er, a marathon, not a sprint.

Henry Chappell is founder and chief executive at Pitch.

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