Is the Olympic pitch worth winning for kudos alone?

olympic%20pitchThe agency that wins the London 2012 pitch could be asked to become a low-level Olympic sponsor instead of taking a fee. It’s an idea which has caused consternation among those being asked to pitch.

Several agencies have slammed the Games organisers for being “cheapskates” and have criticised the way the pitch is being handled, saying the prestigious account will be a drain on resources and finances. Many are beginning to question whether the kudos of landing the account is enough.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) is considering making the agency a tier-three – or third level – partner in the marketing services category. Other remuneration proposals put forward include the appointed agency taking a percentage of the marketing communications money raised.

Sources have questioned whether such plans indicate an unwillingness to pay directly for services, despite Locog’s “huge” budget and the £400,000 paid to design agency Wolff Olins for the controversial London 2012 logo.

One senior source calls it a “cheek” that so much was paid for a logo when an agency would have to work “much harder” for less money.

Another source highlights the enormity of the task, saying it is not simply about creating advertising and marketing messages, but also about adapting them for countries and regions as diverse as China, India and Russia.

The source compares the commitment and sacrifice needed to work for a political party, such as Labour or the Conservatives, but says it will be even greater for the Olympics as it is over an intensive four-year period. He also points out that the winning agency would be sacrificing people from a range of disciplines to work almost entirely on one account for little recompense.

However, another industry source bemoans the lack of initiative shown by agencies, saying this is a “modern” pitch for a modern Olympics – and a real chance for them to set their own remuneration terms.

Indeed, the London team – headed by commercial director Chris Townsend – claims that 2012 will be the first “truly digital” Games. It says the chosen agency will be “instrumental” in the Games’ success and at the heart of “rejuvenating” the brand, which Locog suggests is seen as “a little remote and elitist”.

Locog is understood to be looking for a “marketing services” solution encompassing creative, media, digital, sponsorship, content creation, events and CRM.

It is believed to want a heavy PR bias, with a focus on experiential and digital marketing, particularly for 2008 when the run-up starts in earnest, following the handover in Beijing. It seems certain that social networking will also play a major role.

The attraction of becoming the 2012 agency of record has new business directors salivating. The Olympics brand is, by the very nature of its exclusivity, one of the world’s most powerful, while London is the only city that will have hosted the games three times. The prestige factor promises to be enormous.

As the brief trumpets: “This is not a pitch for ordinary commercial activity. This is not a Government publicity campaign. The Olympic and Paralympics Games are the largest peacetime events that mankind undertakes.”

Yet doubts persist, and few of the holding companies seem willing to publicly (or privately) commit to pitching. Senior executives point to an “obvious advantage” held by Sir Martin Sorrell and his WPP Group – its “Britishness”.

They suggest a UK plc would be a popular choice, particularly if it were to “sponsor” the games. Sorrell was also involved in the 2012 bid and it has been suggested that a number of agencies have decided not to pitch because they believe WPP has already been earmarked to handle the account.

One executive from a rival holding company says: “Think Pride of Britain 2012.” Others believe M&C Saatchi is in with a good chance for similar reasons, although most think only the big four holding companies have enough in their armoury to satisfy all of Locog’s requirements.

Other pitfalls include the possibility of “death by committee” with Locog, Government ministers and the Prime Minister expected to have a say, together with sports bodies, the COI and the Mayor of London. Then there’s the unnerving glare of the UK media and the shadow of the Millennium Dome debacle to consider.

One chief executive says: “There is a danger that everything will be fudged or unable to move quickly because of the bureaucracy that threatens to overwhelm the account.”

And then there is the uproar over Wolff Olins’ divisive logo. Outrage over the “money wasted” in its production and design has meant that Locog must tread carefully to avoid a media outcry. As one industry source says: “Pity the poor agency that has to work with that monstrosity.”

Locog intends to shortlist agencies early in the new year and appoint towards the end of January. The prize for the winning agency may well be enormous, but the dedication and sacrifice required could spell an Olympic nightmare rather than an Olympic Dream.

Funnelling funds
The source also questions why the COI is not running the pitch, which is being managed by the AAR: “Why can’t the money be funnelled through the COI, especially as so much of the work leading up to the Olympics will focus on Government initiatives, and issues such as getting children fitter and more active in sports?”

Another source highlights the enormity of the task, saying it is not simply about creating advertising and marketing messages, but also about adapting them for countries and regions as diverse as China, India and Russia.

The source compares the commitment and sacrifice needed to work for a political party, such as Labour or the Conservatives, but says it will be even greater for the Olympics as it is over an intensive four-year period. He also points out that the winning agency would be sacrificing people from a range of disciplines to work almost entirely on one account for little recompense.

However, another industry source bemoans the lack of initiative shown by agencies, saying this is a “modern” pitch for a modern Olympics – and a real chance for them to set their own remuneration terms.

Indeed, the London team – headed by commercial director Chris Townsend – claims that 2012 will be the first “truly digital” Games. It says the chosen agency will be “instrumental” in the Games’ success and at the heart of “rejuvenating” the brand, which Locog suggests is seen as “a little remote and elitist”.

Locog is understood to be looking for a “marketing services” solution encompassing creative, media, digital, sponsorship, content creation, events and CRM.

It is believed to want a heavy PR bias, with a focus on experiential and digital marketing, particularly for 2008 when the run-up starts in earnest, following the handover in Beijing. It seems certain that social networking will also play a major role.

The attraction of becoming the 2012 agency of record has new business directors salivating. The Olympics brand is, by the very nature of its exclusivity, one of the world’s most powerful, while London is the only city that will have hosted the games three times. The prestige factor promises to be enormous.

Landmark events
As the brief trumpets: “This is not a pitch for ordinary commercial activity. This is not a Government publicity campaign. The Olympic and Paralympics Games are the largest peacetime events that mankind undertakes.”

Yet doubts persist, and few of the holding companies seem willing to publicly (or privately) commit to pitching. Senior executives point to an “obvious advantage” held by Sir Martin Sorrell and his WPP Group – its “Britishness”.

They suggest a UK plc would be a popular choice, particularly if it were to “sponsor” the games. Sorrell was also involved in the 2012 bid and it has been suggested that a number of agencies have decided not to pitch because they believe WPP has already been earmarked to handle the account.

One executive from a rival holding company says: “Think Pride of Britain 2012.” Others believe M&C Saatchi is in with a good chance for similar reasons, although most think only the big four holding companies have enough in their armoury to satisfy all of Locog’s requirements.

Other pitfalls include the possibility of “death by committee” with Locog, Government ministers and the Prime Minister expected to have a say, together with sports bodies, the COI and the Mayor of London. Then there’s the unnerving glare of the UK media and the shadow of
the Millennium Dome debacle to consider.

Bureaucracy overload
One chief executive says: “There is a danger that everything will be fudged or unable to move quickly because
of the bureaucracy that threatens to overwhelm the account.”

And then there is the uproar over Wolff Olins’ divisive logo. Outrage over the “money wasted” in its production and design has meant that Locog must tread carefully to avoid a media outcry. As one industry source says: “Pity the poor agency that has to work with that monstrosity.”

Locog intends to shortlist agencies early in the new year and appoint towards the end of January. The prize
for the winning agency may well be enormous, but the dedication and sacrifice required could spell an Olympic nightmare rather than an Olympic Dream.

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