Sponsors to benefit from ‘undervalued’ Commonwealth Games

Ford and SSE are accelerating their Commonwealth Games sponsorships to fill the World Cup void but the dearth of big name brands tied to the event could force marketers to rue not doing more as buzz for its opening starts to build.

Ford has created an online hub to host user-generated content from its Glasgow 2014 campaign.

The tournament’s opening this Wednesday (23 July) marks the culmination of a golden period for the UK, which has enjoyed everything from an Olympics to the birth of a royal baby these past two years.

Yet the shadow of Delhi 2010, which was beset by security and venue problems, left many companies undecided on the Commonwealth Games’ ability to boost their brands. Companies such as Heineken, Speedo and Irn Bru (see ad below) hedged their Glasgow 2014 bets with “provider” packages limited to Scotland and the other home nations, while Ford and SSE gambled on wider reaching deals in anticipation of a halo-effect.

The American car maker’s “Play Your Part” rallying cry to the home nations begins in earnest this week with social, print and outdoor activity pushing its environmentally friendly cars. Eight athletes from the competing Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland teams form the crux of the Blue Hive-created campaign, challenging supporters to complete tasks throughout the event. For example, Scottish boxer Lewis Benson is asking fans to suggest their motivational music picks as one of his challenges.

It all ties back the car maker’s creative theme of “keeping the games moving”, a concept it believes is reinforced by the fact that a fleet of 1,120 cars it is supplying are being used by organisers. Ford says the event is a chance to drive brand awareness across the home nations as it looks to return its European business to profitability by 2015.

SSE is pursuing a similar activation strategy for its “#GoGlasgow” campaign, which will include its biggest social media charge to date. The energy provider is asking fans to post hashtagged tweets to propel their competing country to the top of a social leaderboard. Visitors to the company’s experiential hub at the sponsors’ village in Glasgow can also contribute to the rankings by taking a selfie in front of an interactive screen displaying their nation’s #Gomessage. SSE customers will also be served special offers via its O2 Priority style rewards service.

The energy firm is hoping the campaign, developed by sponsorship agency Synergy, harvests the goodwill around the event as it works to restore customer faith in the brand.

The bounce effect of staging multiple events in the UK has had a bearing on the public clamour for athletics, with organisers claiming Glasgow 2014’s £100m commercial revenue cache will take it to 1.5 billion people through TV and radio in all 71 of the competing nations for the first time.

While commercial revenues are set to be the biggest ever for the tournament, the fact that Manchester 2002 – the last Commonwealth Games to be held in the UK – had three more official sponsors than Glasgow suggests it has not been plain sailing in the years following London 2012.

Sponsorship experts observe that by doubting Glasgow 2014’s ability to inspire the nation, many companies have missed the opportunity to fully exploit the commercial legacy from the last Olympics. Public interest in the tournament has been hampered by low-key marketing and its close proximity to the World Cup but it will quickly grow once it starts, they add.

Rupert Pratt, managing director of sports sponsorship agency Generate, says: “London 2012 raised the profile of sport and sponsorship and theoretically that should have just rolled into Glasgow’s commercial plans. That momentum failed to materialise and its made all the more obvious by some obvious categories missing from the top tier [sponsorship] roster.

“It’s really suffered from a marketing and profile perspective and the perception of something that’s happening in Scotland and not commercially for the rest of the UK, something that will change once the games have begun.”

Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing at BrandRapport, says: “There’s an understandable reservation from sponsors to the Commonwealth Games given its past problems, particularly when hosted in other countries.

“But it feels like the sponsorship industry has missed a trick not exploiting the commercial legacy London 2012 offered. Brands should have looked at London 2012, Glasgow 2014 and the World Championships in 2017 and used it as a five year programme to grow their stature in the eyes of the British public.”

We Are England, the Commonwealth Games England team, argues sponsorship efforts around the Queens Baton Relay and a campaign with kit provider Kukri sustained buzz despite the dominance of the World Cup. Organisers are also working with existing and potential partners to turn the event into a platform for long-term revenues and brand-building activity.