Ten lessons we can learn from London 2012- Ben Wells

By Community | September 7, 2012

1. In an increasingly mobile (if not necessarily socially-mobile) world, major events have become a honey pot for campaigners of all persuasions. We’ve seen Dow and Atos targeted for specific reasons and McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Cadbury’s more generally. I can’t see this deterring brands from being involved in future Games but it’s certainly increasingly important to factor into crisis planning.

2. Sponsors are going to have to up their game in terms of activation and rely less on omnipotent anti-ambush legislation. If you’re worried about noise generated by parasites, it’s probably because you’ve not done enough to drown them out.

3. The ambushers have done a very good job around the Games. Nike has a natural right to play and their advertising as ever is top drawer. For those brands that have less of a natural association with the Olympic Games, just don’t give them the oxygen of publicity. The more fuss that’s made, the more value they get. Still, credit some ingenious creativity to get around the Olympic Act.

4. Which brings me onto a favourite of mine. Sponsorship should be about adding value, not about restricting consumer choice. The defensive mindset amongst some sponsors just baffles me. It has received a lot of industry coverage and anecdotal evidence from being at events supports the view that at best has a neutral effect on people. Hardly effective use of $100m sponsorship rights.

5. The Olympics is unusual in that it precludes brands from overt branding as part of the event content. BMW proved that a little lateral thinking can circumvent even the most hallowed institutions. Can brands draw from this that the media crutch is not everything: if you’re bold and creative then great things can happen.

6. Sponsors in my view should be looking at Rio as being about more than just two weeks of great sport. It’s four years until the next Summer Games and there is much that can be achieved in social terms. Imagine using the Olympics themselves as vindication of all the great work that’s been done in the four-year build up to the Games and as a launchpad for the next four.

7. London 2012 threw up some fairly obvious heroes and some less obvious ones. I wrote late last year about the ubiquity of some athletes advertising multiple brands commoditising their value. Well, now brands are spoilt for choice for potential endorsers of their products. Endorsement can be a wonderful platform, but let’s see some creativity!

8. It’s great to see the Paralympics being embraced as fervently as the Olympics itself. And why shouldn’t it be? So why have some brands played a ‘wait-and-see’ game? It’s the second largest event in participant terms and whilst it may not rock NBC’s boat, the feats of some of its athletes are phenomenal (check this out!). Used properly, it’s a hugely underexploited (and much cheaper) route to market which ought to offer brands a platform to stand out.

9. It’s clear we still have a long way to go in educating much of the mainstream marketing press about sponsorship. Brand awareness or recognition and ROI are not interchangeable expressions; under such metrics brands sponsoring for B2B, B2E or B2G reasons would register no return at all. We as an industry need to instil a greater appreciation of what sponsorship is and how it works amongst our marketing peers.

10. If we thought London was “the social Games” then one can only imagine what the media landscape will look like in 2016 (expect YouTube to build on their 2012 success next time around). Customers now expect engagement and relying on a third party – i.e. media controlled by another entity – is becoming increasingly less relevant. Brands must strive for a form of marketing gnosis – there will be no excuses for not having direct knowledge of one’s customer by the time Rio comes around.


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@thesportsconsultancy.com. This Blog appears regularly at http://benwells1.blogspot.com

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