Despite continuous rumblings of discontent around certain brands reportedly taking over the Games this summer, most people have hopefully realised by now that without the sponsors having invested hundreds of millions of pounds to make the events a success, the Olympics and Paralympics could not have taken place.
Lord Coe, the chairman of LOCOG, has argued that the public needs to be better educated about the importance of sponsorship, while many brands have called for innovation between rights holders and sponsors.
If you put the debate aside for a minute and look at the reality, the Games would have been a huge disappointment without the investment the sponsors have put in.
In fact, what stands this Olympic and Paralympic Games apart from the others is how involved everyone has actually been. It truly is the first ‘social Olympics’. Through social media, the sponsors have made the Games more inclusive than ever before, bringing together diverse communities in celebration. Brands have offered an unprecedented rich social experience driving a high level of positive involvement.
Whether you think certain brands should have been involved or not, the sponsors have made the social experience for people deeper and more personal and brought the Games into the homes of anyone who has a mobile phone, tablet or computer.
There have been multiple questions raised in the run up to the two events about sponsorship and its role in building brands and businesses. These have focused on two central themes – partnership & relevance.
If you dissect any Olympic or Paralympic sponsorship, from FMCG to technology, the big question should be that if that company wasn’t involved, what difference would it make? True and legitimate sponsors are those that are integral to the Games.
Maybe we’re confusing ourselves with language and it’s time to completely remove the word sponsorship from marketing vernacular in favour of partnership?
A world in which true partnership exists allows a unique value exchange to occur, one where the audience, partner and rights holder become completely interdependent over a sustained period of time. The social Olympics is a perfect example of this synergy.
The whole point of brand sponsorship is to make the Games a better experience for the public. Even if you leave their financial and logistical contribution out of the equation, the new digital enrichment they have provided is completely changing the face of the Games. From Facebook apps and Twitter competitions to trending hash tags, the sponsor’s involvement is uniting people across the globe. This goes beyond commercial investment – they are providing social value for communities.
The torch relay was a remarkable example of how brands successfully captured the public’s imagination and brought them together in joint celebration. Social media was inundated with commentary about the public’s involvement, with people showing support and getting caught up in the carnival buzz, which it brought to every corner of the country.
More than one in four people have taken to social platforms during the Olympic and Paralympic Games to share their thoughts. Without the involvement of leading, challenging brands which hold the power to inspire and involve disparate communities through various social platforms, the Games really would not have been the truly monumental and exhilarating social event that it turned out to be.
Simon White is managing director at Momentum UK.