Research published in the UK magazine, Marketing Week (‘Sponsors run risk of ambush at Olympics’ 13 October), made very interesting reading. The fact that some of the major LOCOG sponsors received 'very poor' levels of prompted awareness is, however, in line with expectations.
Olympic sponsorship is not about gaining high brand visibility. Indeed the Olympic Stadium and other facilities will be virtually brand free environments with no perimeter advertising (the only exception is the official time keeper and discreet apparel logos on athlete sportswear).
The sponsors are, therefore using their rights primarily for activation programmes and much of this is aimed at cementing better relationships with existing customers. LOCOG sponsors will have very specific objectives and you can be sure that they’ll be monitoring progress carefully. Take BMW as an example which doesn’t need to have mass awareness because its market is niche and communication is aimed its target audience. That said, BMW has double the awareness rate of Audi.
LloydsTSB is another example. The group has the right to use the London 2012 logo in its advertising and it has been doing this in a constant, but relatively subtle manner and now has 31% awareness compared to HSBC on 10%. 69% of the respondents (all likely to have been exposed to the LloydsTSB ads) might not remember that the group is a sponsor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t think more highly of the brand on each occasion. A more overt linkage, however, is with existing LloydsTSB customers who regularly receive communication relating to London 2012. It would, therefore, be interesting to see what the difference in awareness rates are for customers and non-customers and also what brand perception differences there are for those exposed to 2012 related communication and those not exposed.
In terms of ambush marketing, I very much doubt that this will be a major problem. Government legislation, introduced as a condition of a successful bid for the Games, prevents any overt link and many inferred links. But added to this is a growing sophistication among major brands about the effectiveness of ambushing. The sponsorship manager of HSBC, which has no rights to the Games, spoke at an international conference last year of how his bank would not wish to ambush. He pointed out that it would probably be counter-productive for such a major brand to become involved in any activity that could be seen as harmful to the event. He also stated that major sponsors increasingly have a respect for each other’s rights. They all tend to invest in sports properties and in the long-term a culture of rampant ambushing does no one any favours.
The sponsorship industry continues to develop. It has long since passed the stage of having to prove that it works, but like any other marketing activity, it has to be done well to succeed.
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