National newspaper circulations are expected to rise during London 2012
National newspaper circulations are expected to rise during London 2012
A view from Mark Jones and Keith Perry

Think BR: What effect will the Olympics have on national press advertisers?

The Olympics could prove to be a period of exceptional value for brands thinking about using national newspapers, write Mark Jones, press manager, Carat, and Keith Perry, group sport managing editor, The Daily Telegraph.

Mark Jones, press manager, Carat

In the fast-moving world of national press, we are a long way from the flatplans being drawn up. But there has not yet been a heavy influx of spend for the 17 days of the games, and the lack of interest surrounding the London Evening Standard’s auction of its premium slots is a case in point.

Aside from the main sponsors, all of whom surely already have advanced marketing plans to ensure a return on their substantial investments, regular advertisers unaffiliated to the Olympics appear to be viewing these weeks with suspicion.

Concerned that the market will be cluttered with sponsors’ activity, and worried about falling foul of LOCOG’s stringent regulations, this is understandable.

But for those brands thinking about using national newspapers, the Olympics could prove to be a period of exceptional value, with circulations expected to rise significantly.

Publishers are eyeing a crucial opportunity to reconnect with lapsed readers and boost circulations. During the Beijing Olympics theDaily Mail sold an extra 250,000 copies the day after Great Britain won four gold medals, three silvers and a bronze.

Time and again around great events we see people turn to newspapers, either for a definitive viewpoint, as the guardians of record, or to collect their souvenir edition.

The Telegraph saw a 20% circulation rise around the Royal Wedding last year, and is aiming for a 25% increase on key days during the Olympics.

Early estimates speculate the Times’ circulation increased by 100,000 copies during the Diamond Jubilee. The Times is targeting further growth during the Olympics with a reported £2m marketing spend and panoramic editorial coverwraps each day.

News International has similar ambitions for the Sun, launching its Olympic marketing campaign back on January 1st under the headline 'The Sun. 2012 is here let's make it great, Britain'.

Digitally too, publishers are seeking to capitalise on increased interest from the Olympics. The Telegraph and Guardian in particular expect their bespoke editorial hubs to be a focal point for immediate content, with reach expanded through social channels (currently an estimated 5.1m people have already downloaded the Guardian Facebook app).

With wireless internet at tube stations free to access for the duration of the Olympics, mobile optimised sites with easily digestible Olympics coverage will appeal to an increased audience.

This audience is also the target of the Metro’s tablet app, which will have a second daily edition in the early evening during the Olympics, keeping commuters abreast of the day’s events and results.

The Times and Sunday Times websites are expected to drop the paywall over the Olympics in an attempt to garner signups after the same strategy resulted in a reported 6,000 new registrations over the Jubilee weekend.

The goal for all publishers however is not just increased circulations and digital traffic for 17 days but rather to use this time as a showcase of their offerings to entice new readers and users for the longer term.

Whether or not newspapers can maintain any circulation rises seen during the Olympics is debatable, but certainly as interest in the games builds the public will turn to the press in greater numbers than usual.

For advertisers this is a clear opportunity, regardless of message, to reach more people, more cost-efficiently.

Keith Perry, group sport managing editor, Telegraph Media Group

Something extraordinary is coming our way. There's a lot of talk, but a lack of performance, from many companies that should be using the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to produce an elite marketing performance. The Olympics are not coming back to London in our lifetimes.

Sometime it's hard to discuss the Olympics without sounding like a dodgy salesman on a second-hand car lot. But honestly, this genuinely is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As a former Telegraph sports editor, I often try to explain the scale of what's coming. In fact, I could win a gold medal for clearing a pub in record time with a string of statistics. 

Did you know that one billion people will watch the opening ceremony? That five billion are expected to watch the London Games? That 130 world leaders will be in town? That 20,000 media representatives will be covering the games? That 6,000 of those will have no accreditation to attend events, but will be telling the story of London and Britain during the games anyway? That China will be represented by 150 separate media organisations?

And if that's not enough, did you know the largest McDonald's in the world has been built in the Olympic Park, seating 1,500 people? And can you imagine how many business leaders will be in town? And which brands will impress them as they absorb Britain's games coverage?

Many IOC and Locog partners grasped this scale years ago and have performed brilliantly. Here at the Telegraph we set out a strategy shortly after Beijing and eight Olympic partners have chosen to work with us in order to leverage their London 2012 association.

As media professionals you will recognise the brands that are standing out. Yet still, as Mark Jones points out above, even among some official Olympic partners there's a strange calm.

Perhaps it's the calm before a storm which will see every square centimetre of advertising space in British national newspapers sold. I hope so, because what we are about to witness will truly be unprecedented.

I'm totally confident that Telegraph newspaper sales and online numbers will be awesome. I also believe Team GB will win more than 20 gold medals and that the Paralympics will change our nation for ever.

Finally I suspect that many marketing directors may be hauled before their superiors in October and asked why they didn't ride the gigantic wave that's about to hit Britain.

Mark Jones, press manager, Carat, and Keith Perry, group sport managing editor, Telegraph Media Group