As four billion people from around the world tune in tonight for the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony it will mark the moment when seven years of hard work for LOCOG, government, sponsors and agencies all comes together to create a once in a lifetime opportunity for London.
Visitors have been streaming in to the capital, three million expected over the course of the Games. Walking around the streets you can’t help to be caught up in all the excitement. The world’s greatest athletes are here and you can feel the buzz as they prepare to go head to head on track, in the pool, on court, on field and across one of the 38 venues of the Games.
Away from the sporting action, brands and sponsors are limbering up for their own version of the Games.
Key to a successful Games for those IOC and LOCOG partners who have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in sponsoring the Games will be on the ground engagement across the capital. Getting their brand in the hands of visitors via live experiences and near-venue activation must be a priority, as they can leverage and exploit LOCOG’s brand protection policies against ambush marketing.
For non-sponsors, the Games will have to be played out in the fringes and grey areas. Brands such as Nike will have a significant on-track presence through their sponsored athletes and association but are reinforcing their Games exposure through the use of carefully worded and produced advertising campaigns that allude to the Games but do not fall foul of LOCOG’s regulations.
This, coupled with experiential activity, should position them front of mind with consumers at a fraction of the cost of what adidas will have invested in their ongoing relationshp with the Olympics.
This is set to be the PR theme of the Games, with challenger / guerilla brands seeing how far they can push LOCOG and determining what they can get away with.
You only have to look at the advertising campaigns that Paddy Power and Nike have launched to see that some brands are happy to push boundaries even with the threat of legal action and large fines looming.
London is ready, the competitors are ready, and fans are ready for the greatest show on earth. Are the brands? We shall soon find out.
Andrew Ager is deputy head of sport at Weber Shandwick.