Simon Clough, global marketing director, Clear
Simon Clough, global marketing director, Clear
A view from Simon Clough

Think BR: London 2012 - less desirable than an Oxo cube?

Is London 2012 really less desirable than a stock cube, an aspirin and a bucket of fried chicken, asks Simon Clough, global marketing director, Clear.

This week Boris Johnson marked the 150 day countdown to the start of the London Olympics by floating a gigantic model of the Olympic rings down the Thames. 

The aim was to whip the nation into a frenzy of excitement and enthusiasm before the Games start in June.

Given this initiative was launched by the London Mayor to promote London, the much feted London 2012 brand logo was conspicuous by its absence.

This got me wondering: what has the London 2012 brand actually delivered, and what will its enduring legacy be after the Games?

Launched with much fanfare by Lord Coe in 2007, the London 2012 brand is considered by Locog to be its "most valuable asset" because of its importance in securing funding for the games.

Certainly the Olympics are big business and are estimated to have attracted over $1bn in sponsorship. 

Huge global brands including Adidas, BMW, BP and British Airways have signed up as official partners for London 2012.

But beyond cold, hard cash, the brand was supposed to serve another purpose. According to the London 2012 website, the reason for creating a separate brand is as follows "The London 2012 brand is fundamental to the Games.

"It is how we identify the Games, how we communicate our ambition, and how we drive enthusiasm and excitement for the Games." 

In addition, according to the press release issued at launch, the brand was intended to "reach out to young people" and act as "an invitation to take part and get involved".

Given the conspicuous absence of the London 2012 logo this week, how well is the London 2012 brand delivering on these promises and what does this mean for the brands that have sponsored it?

Our latest Brand Desire study provides some clues.

We interviewed 22,000 people around the world to find out which brands they love the most, and why. The results for the London 2012 brand and the Olympic rings make very interesting reading.

So how well has the London 2012 brand done at driving enthusiasm and excitement for the games? 

The answer is not very ...

London 2012 is not seen as a desirable brand by UK consumers. It is the 209th most desirable brand in the UK - below Oxo at 179, Anadin at 187 and KFC at 199. 

So, according to UK consumers, London 2012 is less desirable than a stock cube, an aspirin and a bucket of fried chicken.

But perhaps the London 2012 brand has helped get the UK public enthusiastic and excited about the Olympic Games? Not so…

Our study covered UK, Germany, USA, India, China and Australia. The Olympic Rings were in the top 50 most desirable brands in every nation bar one.

Yes, you guessed it. In Britain the Olympic rings come in at 155 - above London 2012 - but nonetheless less desirable than a pack of Persil washing powder.

Even more interesting is why.

Whereas other nations see the Olympics as fun, open-minded and optimistic, us Brits see it as competitive and hard work - almost lonely. Quite the contrast.

Perhaps this offers us a clue why London 2012 also failed in its other objective of getting more people, especially teenagers, more active. 

When London won the Olympics bid in 2005, a bold target of getting two million more people taking part in sports three times a week was set. 

Six years later this target was scrapped when official figures revealed an increase of just 632,000 - with the number of young people aged 16-19 playing sport actually falling.

So, while I’m certain that the 2012 Olympics will be a great success, leaving an enduring legacy for the nation, the London 2012 brand won’t. 

What could London 2012 have done better to achieve its goals? I believe it fell down on three key principles of creating a desirable brand:

  • Having clarity of purpose: articulating a clear ambition that goes beyond delivering commercial success.

From a verbose and imprecise articulation of the brand’s purpose and ambition to a logo that was claimed by radicals in Iran to spell the word ‘Zion’, Locog could have done much more to define and articulate a clear purpose for the London 2012 brand.

  • Inspire connections: inspire people to think, feel and act differently.

This requires you to make a true connection with your target audience. Relying on a ‘street’ logo to inspire a generation of young people to take up sport was never going to be enough.

  • Create experiences: use every point of contact with your audience to tell a coherent and powerful story about your brand. 

Has Locog really done enough to bring the story of the London 2012 brand alive for its target audience across multiple touchpoints?

As for London 2012’s official sponsors - they will certainly benefit from being associated with what will be a fantastic Olympic Games in 2012.

But I can’t help wondering if they would have gotten more bang for their buck from sponsoring the Olympic Rings instead.

And as for the London 2012 brand, I for one didn’t mourn its absence from this week’s celebrations.

Simon Clough, global marketing director, Clear