Straighter, Quicker, Better

The Olympic sponsors have spent as much time as the athletes, and considerably more money, preparing for the London Games. They’ve produced some very nice films that […]

The Olympic sponsors have spent as much time as the athletes, and considerably more money, preparing for the London Games. They’ve produced some very nice films that capture an essence of the Olympic experience that shows their brand in its best light. BT’s ‘Bringing us all together’ and P&G’s ‘Mother’ spots especially.

P&G built on their theme very nicely with their ‘nearest and dearest’ programme, providing tickets to athletes’ families to watch them compete, and a Family Home for them all to meet up before and after competition.

Other campaigns are, however, buttock-clenchingly awful in the way they try to force a link between the performance of an athlete and their product – Michael Phelps ‘Wash in confidence’ for P&G’s Head and Shoulders and Chris Hoy’s ‘Perfect start’ for Gillette, also P&G-owned, for example:

They’d do better to credit their audience with enough intelligence to make the connection themselves, to appreciate the support, feel good about the brand and move on without having tenuous product messages forced down their throats.

But in amongst the prepared campaigns, sponsors have also had to deal with the inevitable issues and questions that come their way during this highest profile media-fest.  Some have performed well under this greatest pressure, others have stumbled.

Take Visa. As part of their sponsorship, all tickets and all card purchases in the Olympic venues had to be bought with a Visa card.  In response to criticism of this, Visa’s response was straightforward and swift: “If the sponsors are not there to support the Games, the money will have to come from local funding, or there will be a much smaller Games. We want to drive more transactions through a Visa card, that’s why we sponsor the Games, and that’s why we can afford to drive this sponsorship.” No corporate flannel, straight to the point with an honest answer that didn’t try to pretend their sponsorship was anything other than a marketing programme to drive brand growth.  End of issue.

Compare that with Coca Cola’s response to criticism of its sponsorship: “People consume many different foods and beverages, so no one single food or beverage alone is responsible for people being overweight or obese. We believe all of our drinks can be enjoyed as part of an active, healthy lifestyle that includes a sensible, balanced diet and regular physical activity. We have continually innovated our beverage choices – from one product in one size offered at the 1948 Olympic Games to today more than 500 brands with over 800 low- and no-calorie beverages. At London 2012 we will provide the widest range of drinks and sizes ever offered at an Olympic or Paralympic Games, to suit every lifestyle and hydration need.”

Really? Who reads that and feels better about Coca Cola? An approach that feels not only disingenuous, but out of touch in this most connected Olympics.

When it comes to dealing with issues, straighter and quicker is better.