Alec Mattinson: Make a difference at the Paralympics

No sooner does one international extravaganza come to an end, another spectacular festival of sporting excellence rolls into town.

Alec Mattinson: The Paralympics will enable brands to build deeper connections with the public
Alec Mattinson: The Paralympics will enable brands to build deeper connections with the public

With the country recovering from the all-encompassing grip of Olympic fever, it may be lost on some people that in a matter of days London will host the second largest sporting event the country has ever seen.

The 2012 Summer Paralympic Games has already broken all previous records for ticket sales and is receiving large-scale TV backing from Channel 4. Another first is that LOCOG is offering sponsorship specifically for the Paralympics, which could end up providing brands with an even more powerful opportunity than the Olympic Games.

That's not to say Olympic sponsors failed to achieve a bang for their buck.

PRWeek/OnePoll research this week indicates that London 2012 was PR manna for almost everyone involved (p26). From the activities of sponsors to those of the athletes, from LOCOG to the BBC, and Boris Johnson to the National Lottery - the public reaction was almost entirely positive.

However, respondents lacked trust in Government legacy plans, which again suggests judgements over the successes, or otherwise, of the Olympics and Paralympics will take far longer than the few weeks in which they unfold.

In that sense, I was somewhat surprised to receive a call this week researching the success of one of the sponsor's activities. Surely the effectiveness of sponsor investment in communities, grassroots sport and youth projects are more important that the temporary glow of media coverage?

And that is potentially where the Paralympics enables brands to build deeper, longer-lasting connections with the public.

LOCOG has relaxed its water-tight marketing regulations for the Paralympics, meaning we will see branding in stadia and on athletes' kits. But more importantly, the inclusive and laid-back feel of the Paralympics allows brands greater opportunity to create compelling and powerful narratives around the extraordinary athletes' achievements.

Brands involved in the Paralympics have a unique opportunity to make a fundamental difference to attitudes towards disability in the UK and help to further push forward the advancement in opportunities for disabled people in Britain.

That long-term commitment and the positive brand association it can generate could be worth more than any number of Usain Bolt billboards.


Alec Mattinson is deputy editor of PRWeek.

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