Olympic Sponsor Advertising: The Good, the Ham & The Ugly – Ben Wells

January 9, 2012

As London put on another impressive fireworks display to herald the start of 2012 so the countdown to its Olympics truly began. I wrote last time about the potential pitfalls of a formulaic approach by sponsors to personal endorsement so I thought I’d turn my attention this week to a selection of advertising creative being used by brands to underline their involvement with the Games.

Perhaps a sign of the times, there has not been a huge amount of TV advertising in the UK by Olympic sponsors to date. Why spend on 30″ spots when digital platforms and improving CRM systems allow brands to communicate directly with their target audience?

Amongst the earlier to go were Lloyds-TSB and UPS. I think Lloyds-TSB’s advertising in general is pretty good but their Olympic creative demonstrates the simplicity of integrating a sponsorship theme into corporate advertising. Why go to the trouble of creating an entirely new concept when the Olympic Torch relay can be seamlessly integrated into the wider story that the bank is trying to tell?

UPS have taken an existing creative and given it the Olympic treatment, with amended lyrics and images to highlight their role in the Games. The tune is catchy or irritating depending on your view but I think that the creative misses a trick insofar as demonstrating just how “logisically” demanding a major event can be.

Cisco’s Human Networkalthough slightly ham – demonstrates exactly what role the company plays in servicing the games. It’s clear to the layman that Cisco is not just a “badging” sponsor but a vital part of the event, though I would suggest that the creative could have been better executed to communicate the message to a more discerning B2B audience. A step up from the UPS ad in my view.

Cadbury’s Spots vs Stripes campaign
is commendable though I suspect the creative will probably be lost on the mainstream audience. Its target however is kids and whilst the ostensible crux of the campaign is to get people active there will always be those who find it hard to reconcile such a noble ambition with snack foods. Not surprisingly the campaign is strongly online.

By far the worst creative I’ve seen so far is that of BMW (doesn’t appear to available online). Bizarrely opting for the JXL remix of Elvis’ “A little less conversation”, which was synonymous with Nike’s 2002 Scorpion Football campaign, in my view this ad ticks just about all the boxes of how not to leverage a sponsorship above the line. I wrote last week about the huge stable of athletes that BMW has signed to front up its Olympics campaign. I wasn’t able to count exactly how many had been crowbarred into this creative but luckily at the end they remembered to include the new 3 series. The link between the Games and the product? You tell me.

Properly strategised, with top-down support and executed with strong and creative activation, sponsorship can effectively communicate a brand’s relevance, credibility and ability to make a difference to its audience’s life. It shouldn’t require incremental budget if the sponsorship theme chosen is the correct one, the theme should be incorporated into the brand’s wider marketing strategy. The Lloyds-TSB and BMW creatives, for me, underline the maxim that good activation of sponsorship assets can be achiveved, but it is far easier to do it badly.

Last week’s blog, on personal endorsements can be found at http://benwells1.blogspot.com/2011/12/commodisation-of-personal-endorsement.html

Ben Wells – Ben has fifteen years’ experience in the commercial side of sport. Having spent six years at Chelsea FC, where he was Head of Marketing, Ben launched Ishtar Consulting in 2011 with a view to providing specialist sponsorship and marketing support to brands, rightsholders and agencies. Prior to his time at Chelsea Ben spent nearly four years at Redmandarin, the strategic sponsorship consultancy. Follow Ben on Twitter @ben_wells1 or get in touch via ben.wells@ishtarconsulting.com. This Blog appears regularly at http://benwells1.blogspot.com

Ben Well’s isportconnect-profile-widget