Ambush Marketers Confusing London 2012 Consumers after Report

October 13, 2011

In a recent study carried out by Marketing Week has showed that consumer awareness of brands involvement in London 2012 is fairly poor with MasterCard, Nike and Sony all considered official sponsors when they are not.

In a specially commissioned survey of 1,000 consumers run by Lightspeed Research last month, the big-name brands that people wrongly think are sponsors include MasterCard, Nike, Sony, HSBC, Pepsi and Dell. Lightspeed gave consumers a list of brands and asked them to say whether they are sponsors of the games or not. The results reveal that 20% think MasterCard is sponsoring London 2012, compared with 27% who correctly identify Visa as an official sponsor.

Adidas gets 14% in terms of prompted awareness of its £100m sponsorship, compared with 15% of people who wrongly think that rival Nike is involved with the games. However, Coca-Cola trumps Pepsi, with 38% correctly identifying Coke as an official supporter, compared with 9% who think Pepsi is the official soft drinks supplier.

Ralph Risk, Lightspeed’s EMEA marketing director, says the public’s false perceptions of non-Olympics sponsor brands are forgivable because of the “halo effects” of big brand activities. “People automatically assume big brands are involved in big events,” he says.

The consensus across the Frontline panel is that large multinational brands stick in the minds of consumers anyway. However, the brand power of official London 2012 partners McDonald’s and Coca-Cola sees them hold their own against outsiders. They top the prompted recall list at 39% and 38% respectively.

But the panel also concurs that any fears of ambush marketing by non-sponsors will encourage official partner brands to communicate their sponsorship very clearly.

Stephen Vaughan at official Olympics partner Thomas Cook says: “I think the ambush marketing activities around 2012 will be 10 times worse compared to what has happened before. Brands will use the Union flag, carefully worded copy or former athletes to establish a link. It just makes me more determined to ensure the quality of our official communications.”

Business brands that have signed up to become official Olympics partners such as Dow, Adecco, Cisco and Deloitte are at the bottom of the prompted recall ranking thanks to the nature of their sector and lack of consumer awareness. The majority of respondents also indicate that they do not know what these brands do.

Lightspeed’s Risk says: “You would expect business-to-business brands to be looking at how they talk to their partners and clients about their Olympic activity. It probably wouldn’t give them that much bang for their buck by talking to general consumers.”

This comes after a Global Language Monitor report analysing ambush marketing.