Not All Brands Get The Gold
Billions of viewers from around the globe are tuning in to watch the Games this summer as athletes battle it out for the top spot on the podium, making the London Games the most-watched Olympics ever.
Since the first Opening Ceremony, the Games have embodied the pinnacle of human excellence. Today, the Olympics preserves and celebrates three longstanding values: excellence, respect, and friendship. These universal principles inform the Olympic Ideal -- to build a better world through sport -- distinguishing it from every other sports and entertainment property and inspiring athletes, spectators, and viewers worldwide. This is what makes the Olympic brand the most powerful brand in the world.
The Olympics also boasts an extremely dedicated, educated and powerful U.S. fan base. Compared to fans of all other sports and entertainment franchises, these champions of the Olympic brand present an unrivaled opportunity for sponsorship returns. This dream segment enjoys a household income that towers over the national average, maintains a higher level of education, and travels more frequently. Most importantly, Olympic fans maintain an extremely strong bond with the Games and their Ideal.
Brands are savvy to the unmatched power of the Olympics and its fan base. In fact, the top twelve global Olympic sponsors spent nearly $900 million collectively in 2008 on the 16-day event in hopes of reaching the discerning Olympic fan.
With such high stakes, brands should assess their fit with the Olympic Games before jumping into the arena. Not all players are a perfect match.
Brands that are compatible with the Games, in both product offering and Ideal, can expect greater impact on their equity. For example, Adidas and Nature Valley, with products related to athletic performance and health, are a natural fit. Sponsors like BMW and Omega connect with the Games through their higher-order purpose of delivering an unmatched performance and winning style. Consumers readily identify a link between the sponsor brand's Ideal and products with the Olympics. This understanding translates seamlessly into sponsorship gold: increased return on investment and elevated brand perceptions.
Alternatively, brands with Ideals and product offerings less aligned with the Games fail to generate as positive a consumer response. In pursuing sponsorship, these mismatched brands underestimate the fan base by failing to engage in an authentic way, retrofitting the brand to fit the Olympics. This does not go unnoticed by the astute Olympic fans and these brands risk losing their credibility with the consumer, resulting in an underwhelming performance.
Falling short of potential returns, at times, can be only the beginning for incompatible brands as some even experience a backlash. A recent survey reveals that the phrase "I don't understand why the company is an Olympic sponsor" is most frequently applied to controversial sponsors including McDonald's.
This sponsor struggles to connect both its Ideal and its product offering in a meaningful way to the Olympic Games. Consumers cannot move past the discord between fast food and athletic prowess, nor between the McDonald's Ideal of “Simple, Easy Enjoyment” and the Olympic values of hard work and determination. Jacques Rogges, president of the International Olympic Committee, admitted that there are "big questions about McDonald's" to be addressed considering the brand's connection to obesity.
These unanswered questions highlight how some brands may be better served pursuing alternative sponsorship opportunities.
So in the case of Olympic sponsorship, not all brands bring home the gold. There is a substantial disparity in returns for brands and their alignment with the Olympic Ideal. These sophisticated fans raise the bar, and sponsors must deliver accordingly. And if you think IOC President Jacques Rogges is a tough customer, the Olympic fan base is a much harsher audience -- just check the blogs!