Friday, February 12, 2010
Should the Olympics be more selective about whom its sponsors are?
The central idea about sponsorship is that the sponsor’s brand gets endowed with associations from the event/individual being sponsored. In the case of the Olympics, the “Olympic” brand exists to endow associations like “world-class”, “achievement”, “mastery of a field”, “fairness”, “sportsmanship” on to the sponsor. These are all highly desirable intangible associations that can be transferred to virtually any product category- from fast food firms to communications companies. Little wonder so many companies line up for Olympic sponsorship (the 2008 Beijing Olympics had more than 48 corporate sponsors and the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics have well over 60 sponsors) and are willing to pay big bucks to do it. Coca-cola, for example, spent an estimated $70million USD to be one of the lead sponsors of the Olympics in ’08.
Given the favorable associations that the Olympics can convey, it’s also easy to see why struggling brands want to sponsor the Olympics. Bell Canada, for example has to overcome associations related to being one of the most hated brands in the country. (A quick search on Google of Bell Canada sucks spews out more than 100,000 sites and BrandMojo has Bell Canada rankings at Enron and Halliburton levels) But any decent brander knows that association transfer works both ways. The Olympics benefits from the “internationalism”, “optimism” and “happiness” values of a brand like Coca-Cola or “performance” related associations of Omega. This takes us to my next point- the Olympic brand can also be hurt by the negative associations from sponsors like Bell (read the blogs to see the extensive, visceral criticisms about the brand). The point that I am making is this, all sponsorship dollars are not equal; the sponsorship of favorable brands like Coca-Cola, Omega, and Rona are worth a lot more to the Olympics than sponsorship dollars from brands like Bell. The Olympic brand ought to consider this more when forming its "partnerships".