Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Brand GB – capitalising on the Olympics and TeamGB

A strange thing has happened to me over the last two weeks. My eyes on repeated occasions have had grit magically appear in them and cause tears. This complaint started during the Olympic opening ceremony and was at its worse on Super Saturday but re-occurred often while watching all manner of sports. I of course am not alone and the whole country has been taken along on a journey that I don’t think anyone outside of Boris and Lord Coe imagined.

Now the flame is close to being extinguished, big questions will be asked of who has made the most of the games and how brand Great Britain can capitalise on the success of the games and a positive worldwide reaction.

The biggest winners are of course the athletes, in particular the medallists. Even those who didn’t win a medal will have increased visibility which will help in the search for sponsorship. For the big names though, big numbers are possible.

Jessica Ennis’ current earnings have been estimated at £1m from sponsorship from brands such as Aviva, P&G and Addidas. Her gold medal and increased media presence could see this rise to £2m over the next 2 years according to sponsorship experts.

If you just look at cycling, Victoria Pendleton already has various beauty deals and also a range of leisure bikes with Halfords. The other big name cyclists from Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and the upcoming Laura Trott, will be targeted as potential sponsorship opportunities. From Mo Farah, to the Brownlee brothers all could, and probably need to, seriously capitalise on their success to help support future efforts.

The big Olympic sponsors themselves will also be evaluating whether the millions spent delivered. Although defining ROI on this activity is difficult, ultimately shareholders expect some form of bottom line return from this level of activity. From McDonalds to Cadbury and BP, all will be reviewing how they performed and what value it delivered.

But what about Brand GB, will we be able to emulate the commercial success of the Sydney games? There have been plenty of stories about the supposed ghost town of central London. This changed and even Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has had to go on record and apologise for doom mongering and happily admit that bookings were up in his theatres. All of this is short term gain; the real money will come from long-term investment from overseas and export of product and expertise.

So while the Olympics have been running, a number of investment drives have also occurred. A British Business Embassy has been set up during the Olympics at Lancaster house to showcase British business with an aim to boost the economy by £1bn. Activities include investment conferences with speakers of the likes of Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, and Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design head. Engineering tours of the Olympic Park have also been popular especially with Chinese representatives.

To our athletes the Olympics is a chance to fulfil a lifetimes dream and years of dedicated hard work. To some, medal success will bring personal wealth from sponsors keen to piggyback their new found adulation. To Great Britain this really has been the chance to put Brand GB in the spotlight and all that we can achieve. The world has been watching. I hope they liked what they saw.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman

Don’t mess with the Olympic brand police!

By the time you read this the Olympics will have started. Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening will have happened. The world will have joined the 60,000 who witnessed the dress rehearsal mainly in awe according to twitter feedback. Many may have found the 24 dedicated BBC Olympic channels followed by the same again in HD making sure we don’t miss anything even if we want to.

My favourite description of the Olympics is that every four years the world's greatest advertisers get together and compete, and there also happens to be a sporting event at the same time. Now before anyone starts, as an individual I am an Olympic fan. I look forward to witnessing some of the superhuman feats I expect we will see in this country.

My issue is not with the event, it is also not with how it is sponsored. Lets be realistic, this thing costs a lot of money and even King Midas would run out of household furniture to touch to fund a modern Olympics. My issue is with the extensive actions the Olympics “brand police” are taking to protect sponsors exclusivity rights.

The first sight of this was in 2007 when a butcher in Tamworth, where the Olympic sailing will be held, was told to remove a sign showing sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings. That’s right, 5 whole years before the games started. As the games get closer this is getting worse. In Plymouth a café was told to remove its “flaming torch breakfast baguette” off the menu. In Stoke on Trent one florist had to remove an Olympic rings window display, made of tissue paper, or risk a £20,000 fine.

Evan Davies interviewing Lord Coe on Radio 4 asked him if he would be allowed to turn up in a Pepsi t-shirt. Lord Coe’s response? "No, you probably wouldn't be walking in with a Pepsi T-shirt because Coca-Cola are our sponsors and they have put millions of pounds into this project but also millions of pounds into grassroots sport. It is important to protect those sponsors” A Locog spokesman later went into PR retreat stating that you could wear one but if there seemed to be an “ambush marketing” activity with lots of people turning up then they would be stopped which is fair enough.

It was an Englishman, Michael Payne, former free style skier and the International Olympic Committee’s first marketing director who created the Olympic Partner programme. It was his savvy dealings and ideas that turned an almost bankrupt movement into the multi million pound operation it is today through long term big money sponsorships and TV deals. Unsurprisingly he now works for Formula One. However even he, in an interview in the Independent Newspaper, accused Locog and the IOC of taking the brand protection too far and that they may even create a backlash from sponsors worried about negative publicity.

However this will all now be forgotten for the next three weeks and the focus will rightly be on the athletes as they chase glory. I hope though that the lessons will be learnt and although the big sponsors are required, the draconian protection of their sponsorship is not.

Tim Youngman is head of digital marketing for Archant follow him on Twitter @timyoungman