Danny Rogers: Olympic sponsors must engage to win

As I write, it is exactly two years until the opening of the 2012 Olympics. In a PR coup for the organisers, the BBC had decamped to the nascent stadium for the morning and London Mayor Boris Johnson was crowing that all would be shipshape with a year to spare.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

Exciting times for all involved, and the UK sports PR community is feeling buoyant as a result.

Sponsors are already investing millions in maximising their association with the Games, but they should heed words of warning from a survey from Echo Research published this week, which shows the limited success achieved by some brands sponsoring the World Cup.

It confirms that because of the fragmentation of media and the growing clutter of commercial messages, sponsors are finding it hard to link their brands to sport-ing events in a meaningful way.

According to the research, not many more people associated Adidas (an official sponsor) with the World Cup than arch-rival Nike (not a sponsor, but a clever ambush marketer). Perhaps more worrying was the fact that the public mistrusts the motivation for brand association. In many cases, the proclaimed sentiment that Adidas or Coca-Cola share the ‘love’ and ‘passion’ for sport is not coming across.

There is an argument that firms gain much more from involvement with these huge global events than simply brand association. Many of the partners of London 2012 are already leveraging their involvement: organising corporate events in the run-up and incentivising staff or suppliers with tickets. And British Airways pilots leaving London on Tuesday were announcing the two-year run-in, reminding passengers of BA’s role as gateway to the capital.

There is more these brands could do to make their association more meaningful. The advent of social media and the new age of convers-ation means they can engage in real dialogue with their stakeholders. The success or failure of this Olympics will not pivot on whether the stadia are ready on time, but rather on the legacy it leaves for the people of Britain, and the extent to which it drives greater sporting involvement.

These are issues in which brave brands can get fully involved, making a real difference and hopefully an investment. If they succeed, the public will certainly remember them, possibly even love them.

- Steve Chisholm, director of communications at Fast Track, discusses the legacy of the Olympics in his latest blog post.

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