In Focus: What Makes an Olympic Champion?
There is a well-documented link between economic and demographic factors and medal counts at the Olympics. Analysts have identified three major influential factors: GDP, population and host nation advantage. Political history also plays a part with former Soviet Bloc countries in particular punching above their weight. Smaller countries such as Kenya, Jamaica and Cuba also outperform by focusing on a narrow range of sports which they specialise in, for example, athletics for Kenya and Jamaica; and boxing and judo for Cuba.
The current recession should not have a negative impact on the UK’s medal chances or those of similarly affected countries: Overall size of the economy is what counts. Euromonitor International predicts that Team GB will win 65 medals based on these factors.
Are sponsors going for gold?
The UK government estimates that fees from corporate sponsors are contributing half of the cost of the games. Key sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Cadbury have run into problems with consumers and commentators alike questioning whether their high-calorie products are in accordance with the games’ ideals of sport, fitness and good health.
- A 2011 Marketing Week survey found that when asked whether individual sponsor brands make appropriate London 2012 partners, Adidas, British Airways, BT and Thomas Cook topped the list at 77%, 62%, 56% and 53% respectively. However, official partners Coca-Cola, Cadbury and McDonald’s did less well, with 31%, 40% and 56% respectively saying that they are not appropriate Olympic sponsors.
Aware of these issues, sponsors have been focusing on sustainability and other community-friendly initiatives. For instance – Coca-Cola aims to turn every soft drink pack recycled within the venue into a new bottle, which will be back on shelf within six weeks of consumption. McDonald’s is raising awareness about British farming, and Cadbury is encouraging sporting competition in communities. BMW is another sponsor using the Olympics to publicise its corporate social responsibility and green credentials supplying the Olympics with 4,000 low-emission, diesel, hybrid and electric cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. Finally, Cisco is supporting a scheme called “Out of the blocks”, which encourages children to gain qualifications in maths and science.
Despite the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) banning the use of Olympics-related words (such as Gold, games, 2012) in non-sponsors’ adverts, non-sponsors are also building associations with the Olympics. According to CBS Outdoor more than half of adspace around Olympic venues has been bought by non-sponsors. Tourism Ireland meanwhile is using the Olympics to their own advantage with an advertising campaign contrasting the commuting gridlock of London during the Olympics with the tranquillity of Ireland with the tagline “How will you deal with the madness? Will you escape it, or embrace it?”
Ralph Lauren however has failed to capitalise on its association with the Olympics. The company is facing a public backlash over the Ralph Lauren-designed Team USA uniforms being manufactured in China. British Security firm G4S, which won the contract to supply security guards to Olympic venues, has also suffered with the Chief Executive having to admit the firm’s failure to recruit its full quotient of security staff, leading to the decision to deploy 3,500 troops, was a “humiliating shambles”.
The Olympics may provide a short-term boost to sales, but for companies associated with the Games what really matters is that London 2012 provides them an opportunity to showcase their values and position themselves at the heart of a world-class spectacle.