Olympics 2012: Why Sponsors Need to Create Content, Not Just Badge It


Creating relevant content is now an essential part of 21st century marketing. This becomes particularly true when the goal is to own an event such as the London 2012 Olympics.

So many powerful brands are fighting to get their pound of Olympic flesh that sponsors need to leverage their VIP access in every way they can.

Four years ago Coca Cola, BMW & Sainsbury’s would have just made ads or attached their logo to pieces of content. But in today’s world where brands are increasingly seeking to be the content, not interrupt it, they have created something much more engaging.

As part of their London 2012 sponsorship activity Coke will create more than 120 pieces of content compared to a measly three TV ads and six posters for Beijing 2008.

Never mind the smell of Olympic success then, Coke have decided to bottle the sound of sport. One of their initiatives 'Move to the beat of the London 2012 Olympic Games’ is a collaboration between Coke and Mark Ronson which hopes to capture the sounds of Olympic sports and transform them into something approaching music.

The attempt is captured in a 25 minute film aired on E4 which makes for entertaining viewing partly thanks to the ‘Ronson factor’ (I’ve heard women aged 14 to 40 declare their lust for him).

BMW have taken a more philosophical approach, using Olympic athletes as a metaphor for their product as they explore what it takes to produce ‘the ultimate performance’.

They created four short documentary films, directed by award winning documentary-makers and released one a week to keep you coming back for more.

One of the most successful is arguably ‘Power, Speed and Endurance’ directed by Asif Kapadia, the BAFTA winning director of Senna. He successfully draws parallels between the golden age of athletics and of automobiles, so the audience can’t help but view both as high performance machines. It’s then just a short hop to ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’.

A series of ten short films aired on Channel 4 and channel4.com help Sainsbury’s amplify their sponsorship of the Paralympic Games.

Paralympic athletes, including gold-medal winning swimmer Ellie Simmonds, share their dedication to their sport and the sacrifices they are making on the way to the games. The resulting stories feel compelling and intimate, though unfortunately Sainsbury’s sponsorship is bolted onto the end in quite an ungainly manner, which rather breaks the spell.

That said, the series is highly watchable and affords Sainsbury’s a platform from which to share its commitment to promoting healthier, more active lifestyles for all ages and abilities. A laudable goal indeed and one in line with the event it is sponsoring.

It feels like a new era of sponsorship is dawning. - One in which associations can be made to say a whole lot more about the brand than merely a 'proud supporter of…'

What do you think? Is content now an essential part of 21st century sponsorships? Can non-sponsors use content to create an association not possible elsewhere due to tight regulation?

Kath Hipwell, Planning Director

This post is part of our on-going blog series 'Olympics and the Future of TV'.