Without the sponsors there wouldn’t be a social Olympics

Paralympics Closing Ceremony: a broadcasting success for C4Despite 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.

  • Dave C`

    There are several points I agree with in this article, but not the headline – and the subsequent main crux of the argument.

    Without the sponsors there WOULD have been a social Olympics. The vast majority of people who took to social platforms to share their thoughts, excitement, exhilaration and passion did so without the slightest nod towards any of the sponsors.

    The torch relay was a success for the brands in a logistical sense, and those who witnessed it no doubt appreciated the involvement of the sponsors. But make no mistake, the emotion and sentiment was all reserved for the Olympic torch experience – brands were facilitators here, not ‘owners’ of the experience. This was clearly reflected through social channels by those who witnessed it.

    The athletes’ achievements and the social networks themselves made the Games such a “truly monumental and exhilarating social event”. Even if the sponsors engaged in no social activity at all, this would remain a fact. Sponsors can join the conversation, but rarely with an event of this magnitude will they ever truly own it.

  • john

    I think you have missed the point. The brands contributed £0.7billion whilst the UK public are contributing £9.3Billion therefore rendering the title and subject of your article irrelevant. The real discussion should be why brands are allowed to “buy” exclusivity at the expense of the ordinarty people who live/work and play in the host city. The draconian laws implemented at he behest of the ODA have left a bitter taste in many mouths. I understand that they need to “protect” their investment but what about our, the public’s, investment – where is our protection. The brands aren’t required, nice to have, but not essential. for example, I’m sure you’d have found any number of UK food suppliers willing to travel to London and ensure the visitors were well fed with UK produce using UK recipes – that would have generated more social media than cadbury hawking a few cholocate bars around the place. Could go on but point of article is loose to say the least.

  • john

    I think you have missed the point. The brands contributed £0.7billion whilst the UK public are contributing £9.3Billion(and rising – some estimates put it at over £13Billion) therefore rendering the title and subject of your article irrelevant. The real discussion should be why brands are allowed to “buy” exclusivity at the expense of the ordinarty people who live/work and play in the host city and have paid for the vast majority of it all. The draconian laws implemented at he behest of the ODA have left a bitter taste in many mouths. I understand that they need to “protect” their investment but what about our, the public’s, investment – where is our protection. The brands aren’t required, nice to have, but not essential. For example, I’m sure you’d have found any number of UK food suppliers willing to travel to London and ensure the visitors were well fed with UK produce using UK recipes – that would have generated more social media than cadbury hawking a few cholocate bars around the place. Could go on but point of article is loose to say the least. Don’t even mention the tax breaks extended to these guardians of our social conscience!

  • ian

    Utter tosh – I can’t agree more with the other posts.

    Social media existed before brands jumped on board. Online discussions happen around the world about major events every single day without any sponsor needed (no sponsor for the Arab spring for example.

    The Olympics, with its traditional global media spread of reporting and a generation of 18-35 year olds brought up with social media, there was always going to be a social Olympics regardless of £1 or £1 billion paid to LOCOG by sponsors.