July 14, 2008

As the Olympic Games unfold, the branding experts at Siegel&Gale are available for comment on topics such as how the Olympics are affecting the "brand" of China, how companies are using the Olympics to further their brands, specific corporate ad campaigns, branding through sports events in general, and other strategic branding and positioning issues.

Following are some comments by Larry Vincent, Siegel&Gale's Group Director of Strategy in Los Angeles, and Julius Roberge, Siegel&Gale's Strategy Director in New York, most recently relocated from Shanghai:

Why Companies Align With the Olympics - Larry Vincent

-- "Most companies align with the Olympics because they hope to borrow equity or transfer goodwill from that of the Olympics to their own brands."

-- "Twenty years ago it was a slam dunk. McDonald's and Coca-Cola measured noticeable lifts in preference, favorability, and attitudes toward the brand during the co-brand window of the Games."

-- "1984 was the turning point, however. The Los Angeles Games, in some ways, reinvented the sponsorship model (so much so that LA had a surplus of
funds after the Games). It was so successful, that more brands wanted in."

-- "Today, sponsors have changed quite a bit: there are more of them and the affiliation competes with branded partnerships in vastly more channels and platforms."

-- "The Olympic equity is still strong (although research shows that it is the strongest when the Games are actually in progress), but it's harder to transfer or borrow the equity."

-- "'False reporting' of 'unaided awareness' of Olympic sponsorships is on the rise (meaning, consumers attribute an Olympic sponsorship to the wrong company) and ambush tactics by other marketers are more prolific. In that context, you have to ask, 'What is the return on investment for a company that spends millions to sponsor the Games, and millions more to purchase the media that activates the sponsorship?'"

-- "It still works for some. We expect Adidas, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's will still do well. Part of that is the legacy. In Adidas' case, it's the innovative way they've gone to market."

-- "We do think the Olympics is a horrible place to debut new brands, however. There is too much clutter and competition."

-- "It CAN be an effective place to reposition a brand, particularly if the brand is in the B2B space and the repositioning can occur onsite at the events. Many of the attendees of Olympic events are executives (just like the Super Bowl). UPS is using the Beijing Games as an interesting venue to debut some of their new international brand activity."

-- "Intuitively, we should be seeing international companies getting more involved in the Games in the future. It can become the coming out event for large international companies who wish to elevate brand awareness on a global stage. But the challenge is that for many viewers, the brands will be so foreign they won't know who they are or what they do. It requires the brand to do a lot of seeding work before the Games begin, and very aggressive follow-up work once the brand has launched with the marks."

The "China Brand" - Julius Roberge

-- "Until China, never before has the market potential of the host country on its own been viewed as possibly worth the significant investment. Despite the degree of controversy before the Games began, the market opportunity seems irresistible."

-- "The Olympics have a clear purpose for the "China" brand: to prove to the world that China is capable of hosting Games at a quality level that the Olympic brand, the athletes and spectators worldwide demand and expect."

-- "The China brand today is often correlated with low quality (products), so the challenge is Herculean. With the world watching their every step, success in Beijing will send a strong new message about China as a world power. If it missteps, it will not soon have such visibility to transform a lagging image."

-- "It's safe to assume Americans understand that Olympic sponsorship is not the same as supporting China's political policies. That said, given the ongoing buzz and interest in how China enters the world stage, how a brand behaves in and/or partners with China may draw more attention in the future from international media, thus elevating the potential for a negative effect on a brand's image. This may be more of a concern for B2B organizations that deal more closely with the Chinese government or in government monitored sectors."

For more information at http://www.siegelgale.com

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