London 2012 CEO: 'Our marketing budget was pretty limited...but our sponsorship effort has been superhuman'

With 100 days to go until the London 2012 Olympics, Locog chief executive Paul Deighton talked to Marketing about the challenges of marketing and selling the biggest sports show on earth on limited budget, and the influence of Barack Obama's election campaign on Locog's marketing approach

Deighton: 'We are a bit like a political campaign, getting people to ‘vote for us’ at the Games
Deighton: 'We are a bit like a political campaign, getting people to ‘vote for us’ at the Games

Marketing: What budget did you allocate to marketing the Games?
Paul Deighton:
We haven’t disclosed the amount of money spent on marketing. I would say that our spending on marketing is pretty limited. Greg [Nugent, director of brand, marketing and culture] does all the creative and media buying.

A lot of it is ‘value in kind’ which is generated by our sponsorship programme. [For instance] McCann Worldgroup is a sponsor and Nielsen is a sponsor - they paid for their sponsorship in ‘value in kind’ services as our research supplier.

Which channel has proved particularly effective?
Greg is responsible for our CRM campaign and we have built a very significant database of 5m people who are fans of the Olympics.

Above and beyond that you’ll see us do a fair amount of poster stuff, on the side of buses, some advertising in newspapers – a lot of PR and media.

How did you amass a database of 5m?
It’s channeled through people we know are Olympic fans and have an interest in consuming everything we’re doing.

Database marketing – that’s a very Obama-esque approach.
We are totally driven by what we learnt from [the President] Obama [2008 election campaign]. Research feeds into leavers we need to pull and go out to our fan base. Eight thousand [people] signed up as local leaders and they are the vanguard for the 5m – they are the ‘come to me and well make things happen’ people in places like Suffolk and Devon. 

We are a bit like a political campaign, getting people to ‘vote for us’ at the Games and taking them on our journey. If you’re on that database it’s like being in club. [For instance] we’ll show you the insides of venues for the first time.

Can you just take us through who has done what when it comes to marketing the Games, and raising the revenue to help stage them.
It’s the responsibility of Chris [Townsend, commercial director] to raise the revenue.  His role involves raising the sponsor money, taking care of the sponsors once secured, raising money from licensing and ticketing programmes and looking after procurement. [The latter] dovetails nicely into [our] sponsorship effort because people don’t just give us money, but [also] services in return for sponsorship.

Back in 2006 when I hired Chris, we had a consultancy firm scope out the maximum available from the sponsorship categories we had to sell. They said £600m in sponsorship and in kind. Chris hit £700m and I describe that sponsor effort as superhuman.

And what does the director of brand, marketing & culture do?
Greg is responsible for the look of the Games – inside and outside the venues [which] you’ll see from June. He oversees volunteers, tickets, the torch relay and has built all those campaigns – particularly ones at grass roots level. He’s also responsible for marketing of the Cultural Olympiad.

Greg’s job is making sure all the campaigns are well thought-through. Our campaigns are about getting as many people involved in the Games, because that’s our purpose.

The volunteers campaign - ‘Have you got what it takes to be a Games Maker’ – has been particularly effective.

Have you managed to sell Olympics and Paralympics as a package to brands? What’s been the big hook for brands and the Paralympics?
Chris has been extremely effective at getting people in position on the Paralympics and the particular story that tells the power of association with the Paralympics brand. 

How much have you raised from sponsorship of the Paralympics?
Domestic sponsorship is sold as a package, so we don’t separate them.

In terms of businesses buying corporate tickets to the Paralympics, has it been a difficult sell?
Again ... we’ve sold one million from two and a bit million for the Paralympics – it’s unprecedented to have sold that many [tickets] at full price ahead of the Games.  That’s the most unusual thing we’ve done commercially. We actually sell it as a great event, a great day out, carrying on the celebration into the summer.

What do you say to press criticism that such a heavy emphasis on the sponsors means the Games have become too materialistic in tone?
The Olympic venues are ‘clean’ venues – when you go to the Olympic venues you don’t see any sponsor branding.

The money that sponsors put into the Games are what enable many of the sports to survive and many of the athletes from poorer companies to come. In the case of many of the countries, they don’t have funding.

[So] you can actually make the counter argument that the sponsors enable over two hundred countries to compete and for many of the sports which are not self sustainable [to happen].

Is there a concern that, once the Games are over, some of the sites won’t get sponsors?
We [Locog] don’t sell sponsorship of the venues – the Olympic Park Legacy Company will sell naming rights after the Games. Frankly, defining a permanent user [sponsor] is the icing on the cake. It’s an extra source of revenue but the core issue with respect to the venues is having an operating plan with a user that makes long-term sense.

In terms of speaking to the press about the Games, it’s been largely about Lord Coe and yourself. Do you think other Locog staff might feel sidelined by that?
Everyone here feels the same – that we’ve had the chance to work on the greatest event this country will ever see. The overwhelming sense people we have here is one of pride and hoping the result we'll get in the summer will equal the effort of the last seven years.

Any truth in the story that the Sex Pistols were invited but declined to play at the opening ceremony?
I neither confirm nor deny rumours!

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