BP on why the Paralympics is ‘sport’s best kept secret’ for brands

The multinational gas and oil company has long been involved with the Paralympics movement and its global brand director says BP is prepared to up its game if more marketers catch on to the growing opportunity.

The Paralympics often lives in the shadows of its Olympic counterpart, but with TV viewership and attendance on the rise it’s only a matter of time before more brands start paying attention, and BP’s global director of brand Duncan Blake can vouch for that.

Previously a top-tier sponsor of the 2012 London Olympic Games, BP has since set its sights on the possibilities that come with forming a partnership with the Paralympics. In fact, there are so many opportunities that Blake has donned the Paralympics “sport’s best kept secret”.

Speaking at a Sports Industry Breakfast Club last week (13 September), Blake acknowledged that in the early days of BP’s sponsorship with the Paralympics there weren’t many commercial partners involved meaning it was easy for the company to build a presence in that space.

“It’s like when you find a really good place to go on holiday, you don’t want to tell people where it is because then everybody goes there and it’s no longer good anymore. So, the question is: ‘Do I tell other people?’. Because you don’t want too many marketers coming in and bidding up the costs,” he said.

People are more favourable to BP as a brand if they know about the association than those who don’t.

Duncan Blake, BP

That doesn’t mean, however that BP’s intention isn’t to promote the event. Blake says it is key for more consumers to know about the Paralympics, and to start watching and following the events.

“My standard is to help the IPC [International Paralympics Committee] be as successful as possible. I do want to go out and tell people about it because I want people to get involved and I want people to help with its [The Paralympics’] success,” he added.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen Sports, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were the most viewed in history attracting a record cumulative audience of more than 4.1 billion people.

This event also saw the global TV audience increase by 7% on the 3.8 billion people that tuned in to watch London 2012. According to Nielsen, the Rio Paralympics experienced more broadcast coverage than ever before.

For instance, a total of 154 countries showed the Games, 39 more than London 2012 and nearly double the 80 that broadcast the Games when they were in Beijing, China.

When asked whether the Paralympics is a hard sell internally, Blake was quick to argue against the notion. Instead, he believes BP shares a number of values with the IPC including courage, which means staff can recognise that alignment. BP also sponsors the IPC’s annual Courage Award, which celebrates a value both organisations share.

“You don’t have to explain why you’re supporting the Paralympic movement. People just get it. It’s a good cause and people aren’t going to criticise BP for supporting a good cause,” he says.

“Because the IPC is such a purpose-driven organisation, people don’t challenge it. People internally get that this is part of BP building its brand but that it’s also doing good and they want to be involved in it.”

He draws on the idea that many of the Paralympics’ athletes also have inspiring stores to tell and that’s “what transcends sport”.

BP began its association with Olympic and Paralympic sport in 2008, when it signed up to became a partner of the London 2012 Games.

The company has since supported a number of high-profile sporting events, including the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Baku 2015 European Games, the 2015 IPC World Athletics Championships, and most recently, the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.

But according to Blake there’s still plenty to do in terms of growing awareness.

“We’re still in the stage of building awareness around the fact that we are supporting the Paralympics,” he said. “People are more favourable to BP as a brand if they know about the association than those who don’t.”

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