Olympic data won’t make happy reading for sponsors

Olympic sponsors will cherry-pick data to show they got what they wanted from their investment. But it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t get better results spending their money elsewhere.


As Marketing Week has found in an in-depth investigation into the sponsors’ use of social media, their Olympic associations are more often proving to be negative than positive. Data from YouGov shows that on the day Britain picked up the Olympic torch, the Twitter buzz began, but since that time the Olympics have delivered mostly unwelcome attention, with controversies covering any subject from chips to tax exemption.

Moreover, since the torch relay got underway, most of the sponsors have seen their overall brand perceptions going in the wrong direction. On YouGov’s BrandIndex scale of general brand health, only a small minority of brands have seen their scores significantly improve. London’s overzealous attention to preventing other brands gaining an Olympic boost has been particularly counterproductive for the sponsors.

This isn’t the first major sporting event where questions have been raised about the value of the sponsorship. Nike has been regularly ranked by consumer research among the most-recalled sponsors of previous Olympic Games and football World Cups, despite competitor Adidas being the only official sportswear partner.

And Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson has shown that the awareness data doesn’t look much better this time around for those who have paid for the rights to use the Olympic rings in their advertising.

Of course, the sponsors will all have their own measurements of a successful sponsorship, but if these aren’t entirely secret, then they often appear to be post-rationalisations, or relatively unchallenging targets.

This isn’t to say sponsorship itself is worthless. In fact, on Twitter, the YouGov data shows that several Olympic partners have been receiving more positive attention for other sponsorships since the torch relay began – BP for its portrait prize, BT for Premier League football rights, Adidas for Euro 2012 football and BMW for golf’s PGA Championship.

The distinction those events have, of course, is that there is much less competition for attention from other brands – official partners or otherwise. BP and BMW get to have their name above the door of those properties, while as Olympic sponsors they aren’t even allowed to get their name inside the stadium.

The potential audience might be a narrower one, but as Sky has shown with its involvement in the Tour de France, being seen as the biggest benefactor of a smaller community could be the more effective strategy.

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