IN MY VIEW: London 2012 - A watershed moment for sports marketing

AndyWestlakeAndy Westlake, CEO of Fast Track, on the sports marketing legacy of London 2012

London’s hugely successful Olympic Games had a  tremendous motivational impact on brands  and the way that they view sports sponsorship according to research  carried out by Fast Track and Opinion Leader.

The research, which involved some of the most senior figures in the sports and brand communities, was commissioned to test and quantify the feel-good factor which was so apparent during the Olympic and Paralympic Games themselves.  Our aim was to discover what the sports marketing legacy of London 2012 would be in practical terms and we were delighted with the results.

In short our research showed that Paralympic sports and women’s sport benefitted substantially from Games-time exposure, that two thirds of national Governing Bodies interviewed believe that participation will rise, that nearly half of brands say they will spend more on sponsorship and that three quarters of them believe that new sponsors will enter the market.

That has to be good news for sport and brands alike and, I believe, provides further evidence that London 2012 represents something of a watershed moment for sports marketing. 

The sponsors working around London 2012 took their obligation to activate seriously, many achieving new levels of creativity and endeavor.  They did some great things and, overall, generated significant value from their energy, as well as the money they invested.

Take Paralympic sport for example. It is a sector which Fast Track has been involved in for many years but until the 2012 Games, many brands had been slow to recognize the depth of value that association with disability sport could offer.

Women’s sport is another area which has too often been off the agenda in markets such as the UK. But 74 per cent of the brand which took part in our survey now see women’s sport as a much more attractive proposition than before the summer. Just look at the elevated and deserved media focus Netball has had in the past few weeks.

London 2012 clearly showed that brands are becoming much more comfortable buying sports rights which don’t necessarily deliver masses of automatic exposure and that they are happy to work on developing the narrative around their involvement and exploring new opportunities for connectivity.  Today’s brands are driven by a trust agenda as much as pure visibility and that has seen driven levels of commitment and creativity significantly.

Ten years ago sports marketing was more do with sport than marketing. But it’s not like that at all today as brands understand that they have to build credible, authentic connections with their consumers and stakeholders   and that it is possible to achieve this by working with ‘smaller’ sports properties so long as you have really compelling ideas.

The fact is that while other major events have succeeded in attracting sponsors to sport I don’t think we have ever seen anything quite like this.  In an increasingly fragmented communications market, sports sponsorship allows brands to get right within a targeted consumer’s sweet sport.

The increasing importance of sponsorship to brands is obvious and there is a fantastic opportunity here to back sports whose profiles have risen incredibly.


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