Keep feeding the flame

Maintaining momentum and support for the London 2012 over the next seven years is a tough a task.

When the announcement came that London had beaten Paris for the right to host the Olympic Games in 2012, all eyes were on bid leader Lord Coe and the host of sporting stars who were in Singapore to lend their support. While the photographers focused on David Beckham hugging Sir Steve Redgrave, another pair embraced out of shot – London 2012 chief executive Keith Mills and marketing director David Magliano, who were realising their dream of bringing the greatest sporting event on Earth back to the capital.

Coe, an Olympic gold medallist and former Tory MP, is no stranger to the limelight, but few people outside the business world have heard of Mills or Magliano, both of whom played integral roles in helping London overtake Paris in the home straight.

A former Ogilvy & Mather adman, Magliano was taken on by HHCL & Partners to launch budget airline Go, before being poached by the airline’s chief executive, Barbara Cassani, to head Go’s marketing operations. After a stint as sales and marketing director at easyJet, following its merger with Go, Magliano was again persuaded by Cassani, who was by then heading London’s Olympic bid, to join her as marketing director.

It’s the winning that counts

HHCL/Red Cell managing director Nick Howarth, who worked with Magliano at O&M and HHCL, says Magliano’s dedication to the bid mirrored his attitude when he launched Go.

“On both occasions, Magliano had a crystal-clear vision of what he wanted and what the point of difference was,” says Howarth. “His ability to execute his vision in a coherent way is unparalleled.”

Magliano oversaw the appointment of M&C Saatchi and The Ingram Partnership to develop the marketing campaign to galvanise support for London 2012. M&C chief executive Tim Duffy says: “He is happy to be behind the scenes, but deserves more attention. He’s focused, strong and very committed and planned and orchestrated a long-term campaign quite brilliantly.”

Mills, too, has an impressive CV. He founded Air Miles and then Nectar, before being made chief executive of London 2012. Nectar chief executive Rob Gierkink says: “I can’t think of anybody more suited to going out and wooing International Olympic Committee members. He can make people comfortable in a very short time and in a room full of people with differing views, he is very good at articulating a message.”

But the two were part of a team that got off to a rocky start, when the IOC gave the London bid a disappointing initial evaluation in May last year, criticising the capital’s “obsolete” transport system and expressing serious doubts about the level of public support.

With the London bid trailing behind Paris and Madrid, a radical overhaul was needed. Cassani stepped aside from her &£150,000-a-year chairman’s role to make way for Coe. One of his first moves was to bring in former UEFA public relations man Mike Lee to sell the bid to a sceptical media.

With a renewed marketing effort, and with Magliano working hard to sign up dozens of companies – including British Airways, BT and the John Lewis Partnership – to promote London 2012, public support continued to grow steadily. As the final decision approached, it began to increase at a quicker pace, as people started to believe that London could catch long-time favourite Paris.

Coming good in the home straight

For most, however, the final presentation to IOC members last Wednesday was the pivotal moment. The London bid team talked about creating a legacy for future generations, both in sporting terms and by regenerating East London. The team even flew in 30 children from the area.

The three days of intense lobbying beforehand by the likes of Tony Blair and David Beckham – whose presence was designed to win over the Spanish vote – also played a part.

Ivan Pollard, a partner at The Ingram Partnership, says: “The presentation on the day was a key factor. The team went for an idea that would resonate with a lot of Olympians and they took it further than even the IOC would have expected.”

Brands are already trying to assess the opportunities that the London Olympics present, but one thing is certain – they will face high media costs when the games come to the capital. Starcom Europe, Middle East and Africa managing partner Ian Clarke, who analysed the cost of media in Greece during the Athens Olympics, found that rates increased by an average of 30 per cent. The effect was not confined to Greece – commercial television channels in the UK commanded higher prices, up between four and five per cent, despite the fact that the BBC held the broadcasting rights for the event.

Brands should also be aware that the Government is planning new laws banning companies from making an “association” with the Olympics unless they are official sponsors. The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising says this attempt to stop guerrilla marketing is a “step too far”.

Steps have also been taken by the London bid team to prevent brands other than official sponsors from buying outdoor sites around the sporting events and on public transport while the games are in progress.

The Olympic Games has a number of official sponsors, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Samsung, which have global sponsorship rights for the games. But London 2012 is required to raise $725m (&£410m) from domestic sponsorships and will begin negotiations with companies in various sectors – including telecommunications, banking and financial services, automotive, petroleum, airlines and computers and technology – in the coming months.

Speaking exclusively to Marketing Week, London 2012 chief executive Keith Mills says: “These will be some of the biggest sponsorship agreements ever seen in the UK. We have already had enquiries and our priority over the next 100 days will be to enter discussions with companies in a large number of sectors, which will form the core of our sponsorship platform.”

A new team selection

It is not clear to whom this next marketing task will fall, as the bid team is to be merged into a new London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog). Coe and Mills have both indicated their desire to take on roles in the new organisation. It is thought that the former will be made chairman and president of the organising committee, with Mills as his deputy. A high-profile chief executive is also being sought, while Magliano is expected to remain as marketing chief. Apart from finding domestic sponsors for the event, the marketing boss will also have to try to maintain public support for the games.

Publicis Groupe-owned research company i to i found that during the bidding process, 40 per cent of people questioned were “strong supporters”, while 29 per cent fell into the category of “swing supporters”.

Claire Spencer, chief executive of i to i, argues that the organising committee must concentrate on this group in the approach to the games. “The job is just beginning, because people can be quite fickle,” she says. “The Olympics is a long way off and support will dip.”

As an athlete, Coe was a master of timing his runs, and London’s sprint finish was the key to victory last week. The terrorist attacks on the city 24 hours later turned joy to despair, but there is a growing determination that the capital will stage an unforgettable Olympic Games in 2012. For Mills and Magliano, the task has only just begun.

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