Paul Porter, executive planning director, Mars\Y&R
Paul Porter, executive planning director, Mars\Y&R
A view from Paul Porter

Think BR: How the Olympic sponsors are lining up

How are some of the most active sponsors leveraging their Olympic association, asks Paul Porter, executive planning director, Mars\Y&R.

The somewhat soggy Jubilee bunting has been taken down, England are out of Euro 2012, and we’re now well and truly in the midst of Olympic-mania.

With less than a month to go, the main Olympic sponsors are ramping up their advertising activity to amplify their massive investment.

And according to one columnist, Joe Public thinks the Games are omnipresent, with "wall-to-wall marketing guff plastered over hours of telly advertising, acres of billboards, and even the labels on milk bottles".

But look closer, beyond the activities of the 25 Olympic partners and sponsors, and what you’re likely to come across is an amorphous, one-size-fits-all marketing approach, from supermarkets and brands alike.

Listen to the word on the streets of the capital, and you’re likely to sense some ambivalence toward the Games and uncertainty on how to participate.

Only about half of Britons claim to be interested in the Summer Olympics, and many only ‘moderately’ so.

Once, the Games would have been seen as an opportunity for brands to throw the full weight of their marketing teams behind related advertising, sales promotion and shop floor activation, however tenuous the link and however tactical the campaigns.

At London 2012, draconian legislation, hefty prices, and public indifference have led to marketing uncertainty among brands that aren’t official sponsors.

Now, all but the biggest of brands have opted for an unnatural state of limbo. TV advertising forecasts are down 10%, and although digital and outdoor spend is up, the supermarket shelves are unusually quiet as non-sponsors play safe.

Of course there are well-worn arguments to back this reticence: the under-current of dissatisfaction around the Games, the traditionally dead period over the summer months and the lack of exposure given the changing viewing habits around sports, eg, via mobile, tablet and other ‘on the move’ devices.

For those brands that have opted to stand on sidelines, now is as good a time as any to watch and learn from the official sponsors.

Some are doing better than others when it comes to the three core objectives of FMCG brands when they’re looking to amplify their backing: driving brand awareness, building retailer relationships, and delivering brand engagement with shoppers.

From a shopper point of view then, here’s a run-down of some of the most active sponsors, and how well they’re leveraging their Olympic association.


When it comes to brand equity, Coke’s Move to the Beat campaign has ensured good presence and noise online, on TV and with on-the-ground activities.

Its decision to 'close happiness' and open the Olympics has given it a whole year of credible association with the Olympics property.

The brand has nailed it in-store too, with a consistent visual identity that makes it recognisable as a sponsor, and promotional activity that began as early as last summer and called for people to nominate torchbearers to whip up consumer engagement.

It has continued that push with the ‘follow the torch’ promotion, which supplements its main activity of offering drinkers the chance to win a London 2012 ticket every 2012 seconds by buying any special marked packs.

Key lesson:

Coke has leveraged display space opportunities with relevant and consistent messaging to maximise interruption along the shopper journey, and it has this done it better than any other brand in store.


This is the chocolate maker’s first sponsorship of the Olympics and it shows. The Spots v Stripes launch campaign was memorable by dint of being confused.

In recent months however, Cadbury has found its feet, with plans to engage shoppers through on-ground activities including Cadbury House in Hyde Park as part of the BT London Live experience.

But its standout push has been the ‘Unwrap Gold’ promotion in-store that featured the lure of daily prizes in addition to Olympic tickets.

For retailers, the ‘Unwrap Gold’ packs have been one of the easiest ways to enhance their own Olympic offering, with a greater number of secondary displays dedicated to Cadbury promotional packs.

Key lesson:

As the only truly active confectionary brand, the sponsorship has allowed Cadbury to dominate and lead the category, becoming the automatic choice for sweet treats. 


Adidas has done a great job of showcasing its association with the Olympics by designing the official Games kit, and activating it with its ‘Take the Stage’ campaign, which encourages consumers to show off their talents on stage.

The only drawback with the Adidas Olympic campaign is competitor activity. Nike’s ‘Make it Count’ push features Olympic athletes under contract with the brand outside of the Games, coupled with the fact that it has designed the US team’s Olympic kit, create a strong association.

It’s familiar form for Nike: in 1996, it ambushed Reebok’s efforts by launching gold running shoes.

In store, though, Adidas still wins. Striking window displays and ownership of the Team GB kit, co-designed with Stella McCartney and unveiled in style, has helped drive in-store presence - the kit replicas are even selling at stores such as Next (also a domestic Olympic sponsor).

Key lesson:

Consistency in approach throughout the shopper journey will help regain a competitive edge.


P&G has shown excellent and widespread use of general media, creating good online buzz and some excitement on-ground locally.

It has used the Olympics as a multi-brand global platform to promote its corporate brand equity as ‘proud sponsor of mums’, plus on-ground local engagement through efforts like the ‘Capital clean-up'.

Individual brand pushes and the Olympic ribbon logo that appears across brands has helped create consistency and promotes cross selling.

Key lesson:

P&G has trounced the competition by creating a single visual identity that appears across categories throughout the shopper journey.

Paul Porter, executive planning director, Mars\Y&R