In the build-up to this year’s Olympic Games, we’ve been treated to a diet of marketing- and sponsor-related issues to review and comment on.
The flame was lit with the Athenian infrastructure’s perceived lack of readiness to host the games. We then progressed to the serious matter of a potential terrorist threat and to the possibility of high levels of performance-enhancing drugs at the games, which is the real weight around the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) neck.
Now, with the games under way, the IOC is ensuring that the e272m (&£182m) investment from top-tier sponsors is fully protected, by enforcing the rules it has introduced to keep competing brands from stealing any official partners’ thunder through ambush activities.
While everyone in the sponsorship community appreciates the need to protect the investment of the brands that help the Olympic Games to continue, there is a sense that these sponsors and the IOC have forgotten that the life blood of the Olympic Games – or indeed any sporting event – is the fans.
The battle lines were drawn back in 2000 by the Greek government, as it got rid of the outside billboard sites in Athens, the surrounding areas and the main routes into the city. The only remaining sites are being used by official sponsors.
This seems to be a logical, sponsor-friendly step by the IOC, but the details of the “clean venue policy” they have published are almost Orwellian. Officials are vetting spectators as they enter the stadiums and viewing areas, checking for logos or products of brands that are not associated with the games. This seems totally at odds both with the ideals of the games and with the true benefits of sponsorship.
In today’s sponsorship arena, we are working with brands which realise the value of putting the supporter at the centre of all their activities, adding value and facilitating their passions through the link that a brand can deliver through sponsorship.
The Coca-Cola Football League and Heineken’s music programme are positive examples of global brands concentrating their effort on making an impact on the fans through their sponsorship and building a strategy on the back of it.
The Olympic ideal, represented by the rings, is important to every brand that is associated with the games. But the brands are surely investing their money and marketing effort to make a direct connection with the fans who are watching on television or attending in person.
As the games evolve through 2004 and beyond, the IOC and its top-tier sponsorship partners would get more benefit from devoting their time and effort to finding ways of adding benefit to the fans and bringing the games closer to consumers, rather than just trying to keep other sponsors out.
Cameron Day is new projects director at Works London