Paralympic Games: Winners and Losers

The London 2012 Paralympic Games have been described as the best ever and credited by some charities for starting a shift in public perceptions towards people with disability in the UK. Marketing Week picks out the brands that capitalised on this opportunity and created powerful narratives around the extraordinary athletes’ achievements.

Channel 4

The broadcaster’s extensive coverage of the Games brought the efforts of the hundreds of Paralympians to a record audience of 37 million people, many of whom were tuning into the event for the first time. The company’s ‘Meet the Superhumans’ campaign launched in the run up to the Opening Ceremony and did a great job in presenting the ParalympicsGB athletes in a way that encapsulated their efforts. It kicked off a wave of extensive coverage that has had a positive impact of the perceptions towards people with disabilities and disabled sport, according to a Channel 4 poll.


Telecommunications partner BT sponsored Channel 4’s coverage of the Games and used brand ambassadors and Paralympic Gold winners including Hannah Cockroft and Jonnie Peacock to front a series of idents. The business views the Paralympic Games as a challenger brand to the Olympics and saw its role as helping people to connect with an event that four years ago they may not have understood. BT has committed to supporting GB’s Paralympic Team beyond 2012 until Rio 2016, as well as sponsoring the annual BT Paralympic World Cup. That long-term commitment and the positive brand association it can generate could be worth more than any number of Usain Bolt billboards.

City of London


The London 2012 Games succeeded in refreshing the Paralympic brand by injecting an enthusiasm that saw the event set new attendance records. Organisers who struggled to fill stadiums at the start of the Olympic Games, saw venues packed to the rafters when the Paralympics began. It’s testament to the planning and city infrastructure that the Games, particularly the Paralympics occurred without any major problems. London will not be the same after hosting the Games and as the London 2012 glow fades national sports bodies and politicians will need to harness the energy and momentum the Games has created to deliver a lasting legacy.


Many said that Sainsbury’s decision to solely sponsor the Paralympics was a risky one, especially considering that no one knew how they were going to be greeted by the public. With Channel 4’s coverage bringing record audiences of 37 million people across the Games, the supermarket has helped raise the profile of the event and more importantly the athletes. With the Games now over, the company says it will use its Active Kids initiative to channel all of its legacy work in the months to come.


The healthcare company was the subject of a five-day protest in the same week of the Opening Ceremony as protesters lobbied against its involvement with the Government’s controversial handling of the welfare cuts. Protesters argued that the company’s contract undermined the Games’ legacy aim of improving access to sport for disabled people in the UK. Atos has a lot to do to bounce back from the criticisms, particularly given the rise in interest in disability now from the general public.



One of the London 2012 Games biggest sponsors was criticised by the Royal Institute of Blind People for failing to provide cash machines which could be used by people with sight impairments. The charity threatened Visa with legal action, saying that all ATMs must have audio assistance. It was the latest in a string of PR incidents for the financial firm during the Games, that first began during the Olympics when it was criticised for only allowing vendors at Olympic venues to accept payments from Visa cards. The company argued that its “Proud to accept only Visa” strategy is one that has been employed for previous Games, however it did little to change the view of thousands of sports fans who felt inconvenienced.

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