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  • ATR Newsmaker Breakfast: London Olympics Will Beat Bad Economy


    06/26/09

    “Great Expectations: Sponsors and London 2012” was the topic for the first in a new series of ATR Newsmaker Breakfasts, sponsored by Visit Britain and U.K. Sport. (Andrew Baker)
    A marketing chief for the London Olympics says he has every confidence LOCOG will meet its target of $1.1 billion from domestic sponsorships -- despite the global financial crisis.

    Speaking at an Around the Rings Newsmaker Breakfast in Bloomsbury, London, LOCOG Commercial Director Chris Townsend said that the Olympic brand “has risen above the recession”.

    “Big organizations around the world [are still] very interested in coming to be involved with London 2012 as a partner,” Townsend said.

    “We’re nearly 80% of the way there in terms of raising our domestic sponsorship target,” Townsend added.

    “We’ve got £200m ($330 million) to go and three years to go to achieve it… So it’s looking very very good for us at the moment.”

    He said that the conclusion of ongoing negotiations in ten sponsor categories should raise a further $160 million. LOCOG is aiming to raise $1.15 billion from private sources such as sponsorships and ticket sales.

    Townsend denied that negotiations with potential sponsors had become
    Marketing expert Michael Payne and Colin Grannell of VISA. (Andrew Baker)
    tougher with the onset of recession, but said that they were now taking longer as businesses adopted a more cautious approach.

    “There are organizations that are doing greater due diligence. They’ve had their fingers burned with other sponsorship properties where they haven’t necessarily seen a return on investment. They’re just doing a more detailed forensic audit, which is perfectly correct and they should do that,” he said

    According to Townsend tier one sponsorships were still averaging $90 million.

    “We haven’t seen our average transactions fall yet,” he said, but admitted that this may be the case as 2012 neared.

    Townsend was joined on the breakfast panel by Joss Croft, Head of Business Visits and Events for Visit Britain; Colin Grannell, Executive Vice President, Partnership and Marketing for VISA; Mike Sharrock BP’s London 2012 Partnership Director; and marketing consultant Michael Payne. Around 50 journalists and marketing executives from London attended the event, moderated by Around the Rings Editor Ed Hula.

    Joss Croft described London 2012 as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for tourism in Britain, but insisted that the potential of the Olympics went beyond that.

    “It’s an opportunity to change peoples’ perceptions of Britain,” he said.

    “For Visit Britain when we talk about London 2012 it’s less about the 6-8 weeks around July 2012, it’s actually an opportunity to develop skills and product and subsequently to develop the reputation and image of Britain and access new markets.”

    A frequent criticism of London 2012 is that its vast public funding is almost entirely London centered. But Croft said that there would be a ‘halo effect’ of the estimated
    This taxi carries the branding of LOCOG and tier one telecoms sponsor BT. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    $4.78billion tourist revenues as visitors explore the rest of Britain during the Olympics and afterwards. In particular he was hopeful that businesses would see Britain’s potential beyond London as a venue for major conferences and exhibitions.

    Michael Payne, who led the IOC marketing and broadcast program between 1983 to 2004, added that Britain was well placed for the transformative effect of the Olympics.

    Payne said that while Barcelona was often used as the “reference point” for a city whose global reputation had been transformed by a games, he pointed out that there was no interaction between the Spanish tourist board and the organizing committee “until the day after the closing ceremony”. London, by contrast, “has a long term strategic plan to exploit the fact the country is hosting the Olympics and a plan that will deliver a true legacy in the decades after the games in terms of how the image of London is seen around the world”.

    Colin Grannell said that Visa’s Olympic sponsorship transcended the traditional business-event partnership.

    “This isn’t just a project”, he said.

    “The Olympics is what we do. It’s part of our DNA. It defines who we are, and to have the opportunity to show that in the marketplace is something that’s been
    ATR Editor Ed Hula, Chris Townsend of LOCOG and Joss Croft of Visit Britain. (Andrew Baker)
    exercising our minds since the bid was won in 2005. We’re excited. We have a chance to communicate this to all our customers in all of our markets – and we operate in more than 200 marketplaces.”

    “This is absolutely the biggest and best event BP had been involved in”, added Mike Sharrock.

    “We’re involved in the World Cup with our Castrol brand. But for me the way in which we can get the whole group engaged behind this is absolutely better,” he said.

    Asked if London 2012 would be the biggest and best Olympics yet, Chris Townsend replied with certainty.

    “I absolutely promise and guarantee you that London 2012 will be the biggest party the world has ever seen. This is going to be the biggest event this planet has ever seen in its history. But we don’t just want to deliver that, we want to have a big legacy that we’ll leave behind. We want to inspire youth around the world to engage in sport. That is a promise we made in 2005 in Singapore and we’re absolutely focused on this.”

    Written by James Corbett.

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