Lloyds TSB's sponsorship of the Olympic Games feeds into so many parts of the business that it is no surprise the group's partnership director, Sally Hancock, often feels she is 'drowning in the content and detail'.
Clearly it is her meticulous planning that keeps her head above water. Looking back on the four years since she took up her post, she feels most proud of her 'strategic, considered and authentic' treatment of the sponsorship, which she believes sets the programme apart from other brands that merely 'badge' events in an 'unplanned' way (see timeline).
Her approach to governance and measuring the effectiveness of the sponsorship (see below) has been equally meticulous. It has to be, given that the bank is now part-owned by the taxpayer and given public antipathy towards financial institutions in general after the stock market crash. Hancock must spend her budget wisely, demonstrate prudent governance and weigh up risk carefully because the eyes of the public and politicians, not just senior management, are on her.
'Our budget for the Games is small compared with what people might think and that's because we've integrated it with what we do on a day-to- day basis,' she says, adding that the partnership 'easily' drives more positive PR for the Lloyds banking group than any other initiative.
The headline figures so far are indeed impressive, especially this one: about 60 per cent of customers are aware that Lloyds is an Olympic Games partner and this awareness is making about 20 per cent of these customers more likely to recommend the bank's products and services.
One decision that has proved particularly 'prudent', according to Hancock, was to align the sponsorship with local communities, rather than with elite sport, through the 'Local Heroes' strategy. This was established when the campaign was launched in 2008, with Lloyds focusing its activity on the stories of the Olympic hopefuls, following their bids to get a place representing Great Britain at the Games. Customers who know about this local activity are about 50 per cent more likely to recommend the bank.
'It would have been easy to have focused on the elite end of British sport but that didn't feel right for a bank,' Hancock says. 'We have a big customer base that covers every part of the population, so our sponsorship activity had to be inclusive. A bank is about local community and our USP is that Lloyds is on every high street in a way that no other partner is. So our strategy is about taking the Games to local communities. It's probably the best example I've seen of taking a global programme and making it acutely local.'
This inclusive strategy extended to the banking group's large staff base. Hancock was determined to integrate it seamlessly with the bank's comms strategy, learning and development activity, colleague engagement process, graduate recruitment and business event programme. This inevitably means lots of meetings with different stakeholders - from the Olympics organising committee to Lloyds' human resources team and the finance department. Every month, Hancock leads a steering group with all members of the group's executive committee.
Surely satisfying all these different perspectives is a political nightmare? She says not: 'I haven't paid a lot of attention to hierarchy or politics and I think that's because I've joined the company from outside. Admittedly it was a culture shock joining the bank and it took me a while to realise I didn't have to be a banker to do my job well.' Hancock joined Lloyds in 2007 from sponsorship agency Redmandarin, where she was chief executive.
Hancock is similarly upbeat about the fact that Lloyds TSB took over HBOS mid-sponsorship, bringing the Halifax and Bank of Scotland brands into the fold. She says that, rather than throw-ing her meticulous plans into disarray, the takeover helped the sponsorship come into its own: 'This made the value of the 2012 partnership greater because it gave staff a central point of interest in these two banking cultures that were coming together in this perfect storm of a year, with something significant to look forward to at the end.'
Despite her thorough planning, one trend Hancock could not have predicted in 2007 was the impact of social media. She describes it as 'manna from heaven'. Facebook and Twitter have been instrumental in the success of marketing the '2012 Trackside' customer programme, through which Lloyds is giving away 1,500 pairs of tickets, as well as prizes such as lunch with cyclist Chris Hoy or a helicopter ride over the Olympic venues. So far, more than 130,000 customers have signed up to receive alerts, giving Lloyds an opportunity to have a credible dialogue with all these people.
'Customers are tweeting about Lloyds and how brilliant it is that their bank has done this. We've also got our "Local Heroes" and our schools programmes on to Facebook, which has driven a much wider awareness of what we're doing. It also means we're reaching a young audience that we don't typically reach,' she says.
But no matter how good a planner Hancock is, there is one factor that has a huge influence over the success of the Games - and the sponsorship. It is one over which she has no control: the performance of British athletes.
'There's no question that in some ways the success of the team will determine the success of the Games,' says Hancock. 'However good London is at putting on the 2012 Games, in some quarters this is likely to pale into insignificance compared with the number of medals we win.'
LLOYDS TSB'S OLYMPIC JOURNEY
From contract-signing in 2007 until the end of the Beijing Games in 2008.
Hancock set out to build awareness of the sponsorship, and the fact Lloyds was the first partner to sign up. She launched the Local Heroes campaign, focused on British Olympic hopefuls. The bank also put the 2012 logo on statements and ATM receipts.
From the end of the Beijing Games until the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.
This phase focused on driving a greater understanding of why Lloyds was a sponsor, pushing the value Lloyds was adding to the Games, what it was bringing to local communities and how people could get involved.
From 2010 to the London Olympics in summer 2012.
This phase gives customers and communities an opportunity to get involved through the Olympic and Paralympic torch relays, National School Sport Week or supporting Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes and their Local Heroes.
Throughout the London Olympics.
This is about enjoying and being inspired by the Games. It will be a celebration of 'bringing the Games closer to you' and will highlight Lloyds' programmes that support young people in sport and inspire the future stars of Team GB and ParalympicsGB.
SALLY HANCOCK'S AGENDA
Evaluating the effectiveness of the sponsorship is a prime objective for Hancock. In line with the bank's preferred measurement approach, Hancock has created a 'balanced score card' to track effectiveness from 2007 until the end of the Games. The score card includes the following questions:
- Is Lloyds driving incremental business through the partnership?
- What difference is it making to consideration of the Lloyds brand among customers and non-customers?
- Do customers and non-customers feel they have the opportunity to get involved?
- Are customers more likely to recommend Lloyds to other people because of it?
- What is the sponsorship doing for staff pride in the organisation?
When Sally Hancock talks about 'authentic' sponsorship she is absolutely right. Unless companies that are involved through sponsorship - or partners and suppliers to the Games project - fully integrate their involvement it will be difficult to move beyond claims of 'badging' or self-interested 'promotion.'
Christopher Clarke Co-founder, Epoch PR
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.' But judging by the four years of meticulous planning that Sally Hancock has put into Lloyds TSB's sponsorship, De Coubertin's grand ideal couldn't be further from the truth. Whether in terms of the medal table for Team GB or return on investment for sponsors, it's all about the winning.
Henry Chappell Founder and chief executive, Pitch
Lloyds TSB began the partnership with a clear brand position - 'For the Journey' - which has been reinforced by its London 2012 campaign. Having already identified a need among its customers, and the organising committee, to ensure the Games reached all corners of the UK, Lloyds TSB leveraged its high street locations to adopt the unofficial role of community partner to the Games.
Catherine Eastham Associate, Four Communications
2012 will leave a lasting legacy, and this is where intelligent sponsors must focus their PR strategies. As Lloyds TSB has done through the 'Local Heroes' campaign, it's about playing to your strengths and carving out a campaign that differentiates your brand and allows you to tell a story that works at many levels, from the local paper to the national news.
Eddie May Co-founder, Threepipe.