Olympics, Diageo, coronavirus: 5 things that mattered this week and why

As the UK goes into lockdown amid the escalating coronavirus crisis, we round-up the biggest news from the week including what the Olympics’ postponement means for sponsors and how Nike is planning to come back stronger.

Tokyo Olympics

Olympics postponement offers chance to reset on and off the track

The decision to postpone this summer’s Tokyo Olympics amid the worsening Covid-19 pandemic has left sponsors in a potentially challenging situation as they look to reschedule activations, point-of-sale material, travel and accommodation plans.

Among the Olympic worldwide partners shifting focus are Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Airbnb and Samsung, while Asics, Fujitsu and Canon are among the gold partners for Tokyo 2020.

However, for many pushing back the Games will present a great opportunity to deepen engagement and strengthen bonds with the Olympic movement.

Better yet, it offers a chance for brands to be part of one of the world’s most anticipated sporting events. And it doesn’t mean that brands will be left scrambling around to fill gaps in their campaign planning this summer.

There are narratives around athletes having to reset their training and preparation targets. There are also the stories of those suddenly presented with a second chance to go for gold, such as Scottish hurdler Eilidh Doyle, who gave birth in January and so had to give up on competing in her main event this summer. Such stories will chime with consumers hoping to get their lives back to normal after huge disruptions.

As chairman of the European Sponsorship Association Andy Westlake says: “The Games is going to be a massive catalyst for a bounce out of this terrible time that we’re living in at the moment.”

READ MORE: Olympics postponement brings new opportunities for sponsors

Diageo hires new CMO as Syl Saller retires after two decades

Former Diageo chief marketing and innovation officer, Syl Saller

Diageo is entering a new era as its CMO Syl Saller announced her retirement after 21 years at the helm.

Saller has had an esteemed marketing career spanning more than 35 years working for the likes of Procter & Gamble, Allied Domecq (which was bought by Pernod Ricard in 2005) and Diageo, which she joined in 1999 as marketing director.

Serving as chief marketing and innovation officer since 2013, Saller was awarded a CBE in The Queen’s 2020 Honours list for services to business and equality. Under her leadership, Diageo’s Reserve brands division has risen from third to first in luxury market share.

Saller has left a formidable legacy, notably in lessening the gender pay gap and enhancing paternal leave.

Her replacement is Cristina Diezhandino, currently global category director for scotch and managing director for Reserve – Diageo’s luxury brands business – who will take on the CMO role from July.

Already with some big shoes to fill, Diezhandino will need to carve out her own path in incredibly uncertain times as pubs and clubs fight to stay afloat due to the coronavirus outbreak.

READ MORRE: Diageo’s CMO Syl Saller to retire after 35-year career in marketing

Most consumers don’t want brands to stop advertising

It can be hard for brands to know how to react during the Covid-19 pandemic. Do they let campaigns run and hope that they strike the right tone with housebound consumers, or cut them completely and decide to pick up again once the crisis abates?

In fact, just 8% of consumers think brands should stop advertising, according to a Kantar survey of more than 35,000 consumers globally.

This being said, 78% of consumers believe brands should help them in their daily lives, 75% say brands should inform people of what they’re doing and 74% think companies should not exploit the situation.

Offering a positive perspective and communicating brand purpose appears to be popular with consumers. More than 50% of those surveyed think brands should talk as they always have done, while 50% think companies should talk about their own brand in a carefree and light way. Just 41% think brands should avoid humorous tones.

Campaigns that support healthcare messages, such as Ikea’s communications focused on the importance of home and Nike’s messaging around the current need to stay indoors, are resonating particularly well.

Almost 80% of consumers also believe employee health should be a key priority for companies, while almost two-thirds believe flexible working should be a priority.

The research suggests that consumers still want brands in their lives, but that they expect them to offer help, clarity and comfort. Looking opportunistic is a big no-no and it is essential to show support for your staff. Brands that strike the wrong tone during this period of crisis will be penalised.

READ MORE: Just 8% of consumers think brands should stop advertising due to the coronavirus outbreak

Strong brands emerge stronger from crisis, says Nike

Rather than shying away from a moment of crisis, Nike wants to “do its part” to combat the global coronavirus outbreak.

Adopting an approach of “empathy and decisiveness”, the sportswear giant has tasked its innovation teams to design personal protective equipment for medics, has made the premium part of its exercise app free for 90 days and has promised staff “pay continuity” despite store closures.

Going one step further, Nike has launched a digital campaign across Europe and the US encouraging people to stay healthy and connected while at home, in line with healthcare messaging.

The belief within Nike is that strong brands only emerge stronger from crisis. That is the opinion of CEO John Donahoe, who argues that the sportswear company has the competitive advantages, connection with consumers, digital capabilities, compelling product innovation and “extraordinary team” to manage itself back to full recovery.

While only time will tell once the world emerges from this crisis, the signs already look good for Nike. Usage of its activity apps rose by 80% at the end of the quarter versus the beginning, with digital sales on its commerce app up 30%.

READ MORE: Nike: In times like these, strong brands get even stronger

B2B marketers more resilient amid shift to remote working

Remote working

Compared to their B2C counterparts, B2B marketers appear less phased by the switch to remote working during the global coronavirus pandemic.

While 51% of B2B marketers (from a sample of 872 respondents) say their organisation is very proficient at enabling remote working, this opinion is shared by just 34% of the 617 B2C marketers who answered an exclusive survey conducted by Marketing Week and its sister title Econsultancy.

This readiness for remote working may well be a key reason why 42% of B2B marketers say their business will not be compromised by remote working, compared to just 27% of B2C marketers.

B2B marketers also appear less concerned that remote working will impact on creative collaboration. While 76% of those working in B2C say that creative collaboration suffers when workers don’t share the same space, just 66% of those in B2B agree.

Whereas 43% of B2C marketers believe accessing data and databases will be a challenge while working remotely during the pandemic, that opinion is only shared by 29% of B2B marketers.

The ability to work from home with ease will continue to make a difference to brands as lockdown measures remain in place and marketers are required to get to grips with virtual teams. On the strength of this research, at least, B2B marketers look the best placed to thrive.

READ MORE: Remote working: B2B brands feeling more resilient than B2C



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