I have been lucky enough to witness first hand three very different Olympic Games. Athens 2004 was a chance for the Olympic family to take time to reflect on the Games' origins. It didn't generate the revenues of Sydney 2000, but the Games' return to their spiritual home was something special. The Vancouver Winter Olympics of 2010 was where red mittens ruled and a whole nation suddenly realised half-way through week one of the Games that a great sporting event was being played out in its own backyard. And, of course, there is London 2012.
The year-to-go celebrations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games have both now passed. Test events have shown that most of the venues are ready. The Olympic Park looks stunning, Westfield Stratford City has opened its doors and athletes are fine tuning at world championship events in their respective sports - gearing up for the all-important Olympic qualification camps and competitions later this year and early next. Everyone has an Olympic ticket story, be it good or bad, giant sets of Olympic rings are popping up across the capital, and Wenlock and Mandeville (the Olympic mascots) stare out at you from merchandise at Heathrow, Paddington and St Pancras.
You definitely get a feeling the anticipation and excitement is building. We are now at the business end of London 2012. But for me, question marks still remain over whether the sponsors have done enough, or are doing enough, to capture consumers' and the media's attention.
There are more than 40 official partners, supporters, providers and suppliers to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (not including the 11 International Olympic Committee world wide partners). They range from some of the world's largest brands to small specialised service providers. Yet they have one thing in common - they have invested a significant amount of money to acquire the rights to leverage the Olympic Games.
Of course, the rights differ depending on the tiering of a company's sponsorship investment. However, the rights that they have been afforded represent a once in a lifetime opportunity to tell a story, to create a name for themselves, to differentiate themselves from their many competitors and to provide a sense of 'clear air' around their brand comms.
To my mind, partners need to be doing more. They need to be doing it with a greater sense of belief, excitement and purpose, and they should be pushing boundaries. To date, it seems like Olympic partners are box ticking: generic ambassador, tick; use of London 2012 logo, tick; tell us an Olympic-related story and you can win a ticket, tick; employee programme using the Olympics, tick.
It's not very exciting, is it? What would be exciting is a brand that broke ranks to deliver a truly engaging and creative piece of communication that takes its inspiration from the extraordinary events that are the Olympic and Paralympic Games. All eyes are on London, arguably one of the most creative cities in the world. All eyes are on the comms specialists, brand marketers and marketing directors who have this remarkable asset for one time only.
The Olympic Games are a celebration of the best of the best, be it sporting excellence or culture. My plea to sponsors - go on, do something out of the ordinary, create ideas that grow, ideas that have a life beyond the original conception, that can be adopted and shared and travel through all channels and live beyond the Games. In short, do something Olympic.
VIEWS IN BRIEF
What is the key to great sponsorship activation?
Relevance and creativity. The sponsorship must fit the brand and vice-versa. Strong creative execution lets you stand out from the crowd. Leave consumers in no doubt about who you are, what you do, how you are relevant and why.
Which Olympic sport most closely resembles your business philosophy?
The Decathlon. In business, one day you are sprinting, the next you are jumping over obstacles. You need to make sure you have enough left in the tank for the last event. And you can't do it alone. As in athletics, your support network is vital. Also, Daley Thompson is my sporting hero.