BA and Olympic sponsorship: How being bold paid off

Sponsorship of the first Olympic Games in Great Britain for 64 years was an obvious option for the nation’s flag-bearing carrier. British Airways had already served as an official partner of the London 2012 bid and had flown Team GB and Paralympics GB out to Beijing in 2008.

BA built its advertising strategy for the London Games around a ‘Don’t Fly’ campaign that urged Britons to stay in the country and support the home team. This bold, patriotic statement was supplemented with a wide range of marketing activations, from PR stunts to experiential pop-ups.

For example, the airline created a huge image of heptathlete Jessica Ennis in the Hounslow area of London, which was visible from planes descending into Heathrow. For its ‘London Calling’ TV advert, the carrier also launched an online feature that allowed users to input their postcode and personalise the advert so that the plane went past their home.

Frank Van der Post, managing director of brands and customer experience, says: “Clearly the Olympics has been a fantastic platform for us. Would I invest in the next Olympics [as a Tier One sponsor]? Probably not because they’re in Rio. Would I have the same amount of money to spend next year on a single event? No I wouldn’t. But there are different opportunities for us now to really build on the platform of the Olympics.”

The results from BA’s Olympics campaign are impressive. An analysis of press coverage by agency Precise found that BA had the highest volume of coverage of all of the sponsors with a total number of 3,387 articles. The airline also reports that 86,000 people engaged with its HomeAdvantage hashtag on Twitter. Between October 2011 and August 2012, its Olympic sponsorship awareness rose by 19 percentage points to 54 per cent, according to Millward Brown data, placing it above other sponsors like Adidas and Visa.

Experiential projects like BA’s Park Live event and its Great Britons pop-up in Shoreditch, London also helped the airline reach a broader audience during the Olympics. “The interesting thing with the pop-up was that the people there were a different public to the kind you’d typically see at a BA event,” notes Van der Post.

“It wasn’t the 35- to 55-year-old Executive Club traveller. It was the 25- to 40-year-old young professionals who’d heard about it and decided they wanted to experience it. That shows there’s tremendous stretch in the BA brand.”

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