The greening of London 2012

As London gears up to host the 2012 Olympics, potential sponsors are lining up for a chance to be associated with the biggest sporting event in the world. But, as well as the small matter of the £80m price tag, companies will also have to prove their “green” credentials before they are even considered as a partner.

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) will announce six key sponsors in March from the worlds of banking, insurance, utilities, oil and gas, automotive and telecommunications. But LOCOG’s very public declaration that 2012 will be the “greenest” games ever could rule some big names out and open the door for other companies.

An added incentive
Marc Harris, a director at Bell Pottinger Sports & Sponsorship, does not believe LOCOG’s strict criteria will preclude many companies from signing up as sponsors. “Businesses are becoming environmentally aware anyway, with many firms getting greener and going carbon neutral,” he says. “This new criterion may just be an added incentive to go further.”

“And I don’t think it will make a massive difference to the types of companies becoming sponsors. I don’t see any groups like Friends of the Earth taking up sponsorship. I think it will be the same crew. It will be companies in banking, insurance, recruitment, packaged goods, cars, probably a flight carrier and the usual household electrical brands.”

But Interbrand chairman Rita Clifton warns that corporations signing-up will have to live up to their promises. “One of the downsides for companies signing up to the Olympics is they will be under a lot of public scrutiny,” she says. “Corporate social responsibility and sustainability have become big issues in the past year or so and any company signing up is putting its head above the parapet.”

Opportunities on offer
For some, aligning themselves with an event increasingly associated with the “green” issue could pay dividends. Rupert Pratt, managing partner at sponsorship firm Generate and head of the firm’s Olympic division, says: “Sponsors need to consider what the return on their investment from the games will be, given the amount it costs to be involved and the limited access you get.

The green criterion is going to add further pressure on their investment, but it is also a very positive opportunity for the sponsors if they have genuine credentials. For a company it’s a good way to demonstrate their own green credentials.

“A company like Toyota, which has been developing hybrid fuels and engines and is probably perceived as being more advanced in this area, is going to be able to integrate themselves more easily into the Olympics.” But it could be more difficult for a company like Ford, which is less readily associated with green technology, according to Pratt. “For companies like BP and Shell, this is a good opportunity for them to show what they are doing,” he says. “But having to prove your green credentials will narrow down the list of companies that can become involved.”

It should become clear in March just how serious LOCOG is about going green.

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