More than a few eyebrows were raised when the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Locog) announced the appointment of Chime Communications to handle the marketing communications for London 2012 (MW last week).
UK-centric Chime beat WPP and Naked, now part of the Photon Group – both international communications groups, to handle Locog’s one-year advertising, promotion, public relations and digital communications contract.
Critics have questioned the logic of appointing Chime to handle the Olympics brief, which has huge global impact. The Chime pitch was led by Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest (VCCP), who will co-ordinate media planning and advertising, with Pure Media handling media planning.
Sources believe that Locog commercial director Chris Townsend was “strongly” advised against the appointment of Chime because of the group’s limited resources outside the UK. Chime’s own international reach includes Boston, Dubai, Munich and Hamburg.
Townsend says: “The brief had two key objectives – to launch an event around the handover ceremony on August 24 and to help launch our cultural Olympiad in the autumn and Chime presented us with a strategic vision to help realise those key goals and also present us with a plan to help make these everyone’s games.”
The handover ceremony from the Beijing Olympics, which takes place this summer, will happen on August 24 with public events planned in London for the day and other events outside the capital. The Beijing Torch will come to London on April 6, and Chime will help put together an experiential marketing programme around all these ceremonies. The cultural Olympiad will include a festival of events and activities across the country, with the launch planned for October.
One observer says that the appointment of Chime for one year was to ensure that Locog gets the first stage of its “local” marketing strategy right. A task, many say, Chime should be well equipped to deliver. The group includes sports marketing agency Fast Track, founded by former Olympians Alan Pascoe, Edward Leask and Jon Riedgeon. Pascoe was also vice-chairman of the London 2012 Bid team.
Townsend is keen to point out that Fast Track played a “minimal part” when pitching for the business, which was instead led by VCCP.
Another observer adds: “The focus of Locog was not a strategic roadmap for the 2012, but was instead entirely fixated on August 24. A short-term approach to help put together events this year to be televised all over the world.”
Townsend concedes the initial brief “suggested” that Locog was seeking an agency partner for a five-year period but that all shortlisted agencies were made aware that it was a one-year contract they were pitching for “with the possibility of it being extended”.
The commercial director further concedes that in terms of agency remuneration Locog was “having a discussion to see if agency groups will be interested in the possibility of becoming a potential tier three partner”. “It was a strategy that we were exploring,” he says.
However, Chime will be “paid a fee” for developing the integrated marcoms plan for the year, although Townsend refuses to divulge the details of that fee.
He adds that next year Locog will need to implement a global strategy and that there will be another tendering process for this new brief.
But, as an insider points out, the key question is whether agency groups will want to get involved in 2009 following a “confusing and a cumbersome” pitch process.