Subtlety wins the race

Olympic sponsorship is not about gaining high brand visibility and the fact that some of the major London 2012 sponsors received “fairly poor” levels of prompted awareness (MW 13 October) is in line with expectations. Indeed, the Olympic Stadium and other facilities will be virtually brand free environments with no perimeter advertising.

Olympic sponsors will have very specific objectives and you can be sure that they will be monitoring progress carefully. BMW, for example, doesn’t need to have mass awareness because its market is niche and communication is aimed at its target audience. That said, BMW has double the awareness rate of Audi.

LloydsTSB is another example. The group has been using the London 2012 logo in its advertising in a constant but relatively subtle manner and now has 31% awareness compared with HSBC on 10%. That 69% of survey respondents claim not to remember LloydsTSB is a sponsor doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t think more highly of the brand on each occasion they are reminded of its London 2012 sponsorship.

A more overt linkage is with existing LloydsTSB customers, who regularly receive communication relating to London 2012. It would, therefore, be interesting to see what the difference in awareness rates are for customers and non-customers and what brand perception differences there are for those exposed to 2012-related communication and those not exposed.

On a related note, I very much doubt that ambush marketing will be a major problem. Government legislation, introduced as a condition of a successful bid for the 2012 Games, prevents any overt link and many inferred links.

Added to this is a growing sophistication among major brands about the effectiveness of ambushing. At an international conference last year, the sponsorship manager of HSBC, which has no rights to the Games, pointed out that it would probably be counter-productive for a major brand to become involved in any activity that could be seen as harmful to the event. He also stated that major sponsors increasingly have a respect for each other’s rights. They all tend to invest in sports properties and in the long-term a culture of rampant ambushing does no one any favours.

Simon Rines
International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

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