In straitened financial times, corporate hospitality can be a tricky subject for brands to get right. Even at times of national celebration like the Olympics, it’s important to find the balance between creating a fun, meaningful experience for clients, stakeholders and contacts without appearing too ostentatious.
Many Brits are already irked about failing to gain tickets to the sporting events, and recent claims that only 36% of the 80,000 Olympic stadium tickets for the 100m men’s final will end up in the hands of the public – a figure refuted by Locog chief executive Paul Deighton and chairman Lord Coe – have sparked further controversy.
In this environment, it is perhaps unsurprising that Olympic sponsors are looking at both inclusiveness and engagement for employees and customers, together with a longer term return on investment for their hospitality programmes this year.
EDF, Sainsbury’s, Deloitte, Cisco and even Procter & Gamble – which does not offer corporate hospitality at all – are using their sponsor ticket allocation to fuel marketing campaigns and reward ambassadors both inside and outside of the company who have helped fulfil the brands’ aims.
Many sponsors and non-sponsors will be based at Westfield’s Stratford site during the Games and John Burton, director of Westfield Stratford City, says that unlike the Athens, Sydney and Beijing events, many brands are taking a much longer term view of hospitality. To meet this need, many plan to use the shopping centre’s proximity to the site to begin entertaining a lot sooner that other cities would have allowed.
He says: “Historically when you take space in an Olympic park – whether you do it just for the summer Games or for the Paralympics as well – it’s actually quite limited [in terms of time], making justifying the investment much tougher. What companies have seen with London 2012 is an opportunity to open well before [the Games] and also to continue activity beyond. It allows them to engage more people from their companies, stakeholders, clients or business partners.”
Professional services company Deloitte has already moved into its corporate hospitality space based in the six-storey office block above Westfield Stratford City, opening for clients in February. For Deloitte, it is essential that its corporate hospitality programme showcases its integral role in delivering the Games, while its longevity means the story can be communicated to as many key stakeholders as possible.
Deloitte London 2012 sponsorship director Annabel Pritchard says: “Deloitte ‘house’ physically enables us to showcase and bring to life in a much more tangible way our London 2012 story. It was important to be able to tell that story over a much longer period of time than just being able to take a client to one event. We’ve got nearly 100 events booked there in the run-up to and just after the games.”
Although it is yet to move in, fellow sponsor Cisco has also chosen the Westfield site to house its corporate hospitality programme, and is similarly taking a long-term view of its hosting facilities to involve as many core stakeholders as possible. The house, which is due to open in April, will showcase the latest Cisco technology – including video conferencing facilities that guests can use and, similarly to Deloitte, will explore Cisco’s involvement in the London 2012 process.
Cisco UK & Ireland marketing director Ian Symes says: “The house has a modern, hi-tech feel. It will demonstrate our latest business solutions using Cisco technology. It’s very much solution-based so we can talk about business transformation rather than a technology showcase with lots of flashing lights.”
But Cisco is also using the space to push its legacy programme, using the Games as the start of its five-year-long scheme rather than the culmination of it. This includes a competition Cisco is running as part of Locog’s legacy plan Out Of The Blocks, to engage school children in STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and maths) by asking them to asses the impact on their local area if an Olympic town was built in the vicinity. Entries to this competition as well as those of Cisco’s Big Awards – a scheme which allows start-ups and entrepreneurs to win technology, services or advice from the company – will be exhibited at the site, and events will be put on for the winners.
“It’s important to tell our story over a longer period than just taking clients to one event”
Annabel Pritchard, Deloitte
Symes says: “Our London 2012 focus centres around our campaign ‘Building a Brilliant Future’ in Britain. We believe the Olympics provide the UK a huge opportunity to accelerate both from a business point of view and in terms of social benefits.”
London music and arts venue Roundhouse has taken a similar strategy with regard to the social gains from the Olympics. The venue, which will be hosting a number of hospitality events for brands that want a more cultural feel to their entertaining programme, will be ploughing all income generated by hospitality during the period into programmes for 11to 25-year-olds.
But the consensus from many London venues – including Westfield – is that many brands are moving more slowly than expected. Roundhouse head of events Neil Ormondroyd says: “Everyone’s having the same issues. It’s taking a bit longer for brands to get booking. It could be for a number of reasons: the economy in the rest of the world, for example, or people waiting for budgets to be signed off.”
Westfield’s Burton adds: “I think the economic situation has played its part in making everyone more careful about their hospitality investments, hence many brands are trying to extend the life of events and a lot of them are picking locations that are relevant to their customers. They also want to be regarded as having acted responsibly in how they’ve spent their money. That’s why many are leaving it late [to book events].”
For Cisco, a key part of its return on investment in the Games and responsible spending plan is a huge staff engagement programme. Cisco staff will be able to get involved in experiential marketing activity in the park and have been able to win tickets to the Games by making creative video content – something that chimes well with Cisco’s business objectives as a technology networking company. Symes says: “We’ve pushed really hard to find every opportunity to get our people involved, whether in planning or stretching assignments out of their normal comfort space, or providing tickets as prizes.”
“Our sponsorship will aim to make a lasting difference”
Sainsbury’s too is using its Paralympic sponsorship to encourage employee engagement. It plans to take 5,000 staff to the Paralympics wheelchair basketball game and a smaller group of peer-nominated colleagues to the Paralympic Games closing ceremony. A Sainsbury’s spokesman says: “Our sponsorship will engage our colleagues and the communities we serve to make a lasting difference to attitudes towards disability in the UK and create opportunities for change in the lives of disabled people.”
Rewards for sustainable energy use
EDF is employing a similar tactic, using its London 2012 hospitality and events to support a wider marketing campaign and business objective for a lower carbon future. Like many of the sponsors, EDF’s hospitality programme is based on the concept of reward, allowing the company to avoid criticism for extravagant entertaining and to build the brand through associated marketing campaigns.
The programme, which will involve events in the Olympic Park-based EDF pavilion, will celebrate employees who have gone above and beyond what would be expected in support of sustainability objectives, and will also reward people outside of the organisation that have shown a dedication to sustainability.
Gareth Wynn, director of EDF’s London 2012 programme, says: “London 2012 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the emotional power of the Games to encourage people to reduce their impact on the environment. Rewarding our employees and others who have done great things for reducing carbon emissions, improving recycling, supporting their community or helping customers save energy is a great way to encourage others to follow suit.”
EDF customers will also be rewarded through the company’s ‘Thank Yous’ promotion, through which 700 tickets are to be given to residential customers. Similarly, P&G – which does not run corporate hospitality initiatives – is using its ticket allocation to reward customers but on a much larger scale. Of the 6,000 tickets available to P&G, 95% will be given away to consumers as part of its Proud Sponsor of Mums campaign. An on-pack promotion will mean that each item purchased offers a chance to win tickets.
P&G spokesman James Williams explains that its sponsorship strategy will focus on consumers rather than corporate events. “The whole strategy behind our involvement in the Olympics is about involving as many people as possible; it’s part of our strategy of reaching more people and bringing them into the P&G world. The multi-brand activation is part of launching the corporate brand behind the campaign and introducing people to P&G.”
A digital campaign, launched last week as part of the company’s emphasis on the importance of mums, and timed to coincide with Mother’s Day, asks customers to upload videos to YouTube thanking their mum, transforming the concept into ‘One thank you = one chance to win’.
This concept will also be echoed in P&G’s Nearest & Dearest campaign, a concept in partnership with the British Olympics Association, which shows a slightly different meaning of the word hospitality. The campaign will see P&G support the families of athletes from Team GB, Paralympics GB, Team Ireland and Paralympics Ireland, so the athletes can concentrate on their events.
Williams says: “We surveyed a huge number of athletes, and they worry about what their parents are doing, where they’re eating, where they’re staying – that’s a distraction that we can help with.”
The athletes also said that one of their biggest concerns was their parents getting tickets and being able to see them compete. Williams adds: “We know how much of a difference it makes to their performance if their parents are there to support them. It’s something that we can do with our ticket allocation that both supports our marketing objectives but also the whole objective of the Games – British athletes competing at the top of their game.”
London 2012 sponsorship director
The objectives for Deloitte House were to have a hospitality venue that we could use as a base during the Olympic and Paralympics period. Everything we do around London 2012 is all targeted around helping our clients understand who we are and what we do as a business. Our sponsorship allows our clients to understand the depth of services we offer, so for us it’s a really important showcasing opportunity.
Deloitte House physically enables us to bring to life in a much more tangible way our London 2012 story. It was important to be able to tell that story over a much longer period of time than just being able to take a client to one event.
We’ve got this opportunity to engage our clients in the work that we’re doing around London 2012, far in advance of the sporting events happening. Taking advantage of that and leveraging that has been an important part of deciding whether we should have a hospitality venue.
In Deloitte House our guests and clients can interact with the different ways we are working on London 2012, using screens on the walls and interactive tables. For example, you can have a look at an interactive table which is about the procurement programme for London 2012, which we’ve been absolutely integral to, including the framework and the organising committee set-up. You can watch films and see quotes and images about the work that they’ve done.
The house is just one part of our much larger activation plan around London 2012. By the time the Games have gone on to Rio we will have put three-quarters of a million hours of time into London 2012, and we would like our clients to see us as integral to the delivery of the Games.
For us, it’s not about paying money to get a logo, it’s about doing the work and being seen as one of the companies that have put its head above the parapet and delivered [a contribution].
Hospitality is one element of this aim of trying to show our contribution to our clients; of them seeing us as the business behind the Games. All of the elements of our plan really build up to that one overall objective.