Ian Monk: LOCOG faces big comms dilemma

Ian Monk: LOCOG faces big comms dilemma
Ian Monk: LOCOG faces big comms dilemma

The London 2012 comms team looks increasingly unlikely to win medals as the roll-out of tickets continues. Olympic deniers are now being joined in decrying the allocation and sales procedure by those who believe the Games, at £10bn, represent value for UK plc.

Communicators face three core challenges over the perceptions of how ticket sales are being handled.

First, the self-styled 'Greatest Show On Earth' is caught between the rock of commercialism and the hard place of paternalism.

Were it purely a commercial endeavour, its aim in flogging tickets would simply be to maximise revenues by pricing them at the highest level the market would stand. However, having guzzled the taxpayers' billions, social responsibility demands that market forces alone cannot be seen to the arbiter.

'Games for all' means that not only the fat wads can be seen to get tickets. The mix of social responsibility, 'legacy' and commercialism means somehow identifying and satisfying the 'entitlements' of other groups. Since this cannot possibly embrace every plausibly deserving case there will be negative stories.

The second problem is, whatever the supposedly nobler aspirations, the 'fat cats' will always get ringside seats. Cue media frenzy at rows of prawn sandwich politicians, sponsors, Olympic officials, etc. The comms strategy hasn't yet been invented to prevent media delight at fat cats and cream stories.

The third issue is that LOCOG is selling tickets for a disparate portfolio of sports. The blue riband events of athletics are inevitably going to attract a far greater audience than other sports which, were they not under the Olympic banner, would be in danger of falling massively short of selling out.

To counter this LOCOG is bundling tickets, a bit like insisting that a fan can only buy a Champions League ticket if he attends the handball. It is, at best, a questionable way to sell tickets in any context.

Whichever way you take the phrase, bums on seats is going to remain the thorniest of comms issues.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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