Sponsorship of Olympic Magnitude

Jul 20, 2012  |  By Helen Burdett  |  

Brands, Sponsorship, and the Olympics

I was all set to announce the quadrennial (yes I had to look that up) AdEase Office Olympics, when my enthusiasm was slightly quashed by the US Olympic Committee. According to the USOC, you may not use anything related to the Olympics if you haven’t paid for it. ANYTHING. The article went on to cite a lovely little social knitting site called Revelry who were staging an event called the Ravelympics. This innocent misstep earned them a cease and desist letter (and later an apology) from the USOC. Now that’s protecting your brand and those of your sponsors!

Being British and a sports fan, I do have more than a passing interest in these games but this prompted me to investigate a little deeper in to the marketing side rather than the medal winning side.

Sponsorship is worth $1.4b to the USOC in Global partners and London 2012 partners meaning that around 12% of the Games’ budget comes from private sector sponsors. At over $10m for a sponsorship, we’re not talking about peanuts here.

So just how is the London Olympic Game Organizing Committee (LOGOC) going about policing these valuable brand assets? There are strict rules such as a 35 day 1km brand exclusion zone for non-Olympic sponsors, a 2 meter (man, I miss meters) exclusion zone on either side of road events and we’ve all heard about the ban on fries (or chips I suppose it would be) in the 40 Olympic venues in order to protect the McDonalds brand. On the social media side, Twitter has suspended accounts after logo misuse and athletes Twitter accounts are under observation.

On the ground, there will be 300 uniformed officers to clamp down on ambush marketing tactics used by companies not willing to shell out millions of dollars to be part of this exclusive brand club (and likely the odd suspecting granny wearing the wrong t-shirt!). Legislation has been specially introduced in order to provide the legal backup for brand infringements and again, we’re not talking peanuts! Misuse of the words gold, silver, games and even twenty twelve can cost you in the region of $30,000!

So is it all this a bit heavy handed? I don’t think so. The Olympics rely on their sponsors and the sponsors rely on the Olympics. They are right to expect a certain level of brand protection. The blackout on non-official Olympic sponsors began this Wednesday which means companies like Subway (for whom Michael Phelps is a spokesperson), are not able to air any ads featuring the swimmer until August 15th. On the other hand, Michael Phelps is also a spokesperson for Proctor and Gamble’s Head and Shoulders brand which will be seen during this time as P&G is an official sponsor. Is it worth it? P&G have conducted brand awareness studies to try and determine the ROI. The Olympic campaign has the ability to move market share 2-3% and when you’re dealing in the billions of dollars, that could be a medal winning performance.

So, after much scouring of the AdEase budget for a marketing line item in the $10m range, I have given up the Olympic dream and re-named the AdEase Office Olympics as The SportEase …at least for this year. Watch out 2016!

Helen Burdett
Media Strategist

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