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Blog : Olympic sponsorship – big business!


Olympic sponsorship – big business!

By Jon Reed – Head of Operations

The Olympics and Paralympics… Once every four years highlighting the very best of the world’s athletes, the world’s venues and the world’s largest brands. On one hand a key focus of the Games is, of course, the sport, however, like any other event, this ‘show’ needs funding and to do so, companies with vast marketing spends offer their money in return for ample sponsorship opportunities – so the brands, too, become a core focus.

LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) did a great job achieving its target of £700m in sponsorship revenues. However, in return for this the key sponsors demanded a high return on investment; which LOCOG ensured would be delivered by appointing ‘brand police’; protecting the sponsors’ exclusivity rights.

This began way back in 2007 when a butcher in Tamworth, was ordered to remove a sign showing sausages in the shape of the Olympic rings.

Then Lord Sebastian Coe was asked on Radio 4 if the people would be allowed to arrive at the Olympic Park in a Pepsi T-shirt.

His 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 backtracked, stating that visitors to the games could wear anything they wanted - unless there seemed to be an “ambush marketing” activity with lots of people joining together to promote a competitor to a signed up sponsor.

It’s clear to see - Olympic sponsorship is BIG BUSINESS!! For all the sponsors who support the Games, there’s no doubt a long line of their competitors waiting to take over. And it’s not cheap – Coca Cola are rumoured to have spent over £100 million. So there’s a mass of pressure to ensure that they make the most of the opportunity during the lead up to, during, and following the event.

As a visitor to the Olympic Park, I was really impressed with how some sponsors had done a great job of promoting their brand; maximising their involvement right down to ground level. The people representing their brand were cherry picked; they were energetic, enthusiastic and passionate; wearing ambassadorial uniforms, referenced collateral, talking about the sponsorship, and created positive, lasting experiences for visitors. All elements were well thought out and aligned.

Eight of the Olympic sponsors (Acer, Coca-Cola, The BMW Group, BP, EDF, Panasonic, Samsung and the National Lottery) had temporary buildings in the Olympic Park and, although I didn’t visit every one, judging by queues some were a hit and some were a miss.

I was particularly impressed with the strong promotion from McDonald's – who installed the largest fast food restaurants in the world in the centre of the park. They used the Olympics as an opportunity to drive their values and key messages; answering questions on ethics, the healthiness of their food and CSR commitments. They built temporary eco restaurants which certainly underlined their green principles; using sustainable, recycled or reused materials as part of the build and kitted out their people in eco-friendly uniforms. Prices were in line with the high street (all other food outlets were priced higher) and they went out of their way to promote the healthier menu items.

McDonalds has since announced that sales in its Olympic outlets exceeded expectations by more than 50% during the Games. By the end of the Paralympics, the chain expected to serve more than 1.75 million meals in these restaurants alone. I’m sure it helped that their largest restaurant was next to the Olympic Stadium, main park toilets and came with great views of the Olympic Park from its upstairs terrace – all clever magnets for visitors. And no doubt Usain Bolt eating a McDonalds before his 100m final Gold win also helped endorse the company further; encouraging people to buy.

In measuring the return on investment, I’m sure this will be a long, robust process; analysing all customer touch-points and calculating whether sponsorship of the Olympics generated the return expected. They’ll be:

  • Analysing all customer touch points; making sure each was aligned to reinforce key brand messages (and then policed to ensure it continues to deliver
  • Checking the right people were invested in, and represented the brand excellently
  • Reviewing the locations of brand promotion and asking if more could have been done
  • Analysing social media channels to see the level of buzz generated amongst customers
  • Checking the media channels used to build a profile
  • Making sure they didn’t’ try to overcomplicate involvement or be too clever
  • Ensuring they remained true to their culture and values; offering an honest approach not the hard sell
  • Reviewing customer feedback
  • Continuing to embrace the Olympics; being immersed in the ongoing opportunities it presents

I’m sure whatever the figures, these sponsors will be proud to have been associated with the Games and the inspiration it has provided to generations all over the world. I’m also sure they’ll hope their bottom-line will have been inspired too…

When was the last time you carried out a brand audit to check everything connects and measure the success of promotional campaigns?


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