The tension is mounting, Olympic tickets are being snapped up left right and centre (a whole £46 has been deducted from my bank balance!) and media interest in the biggest sporting event our country has hosted is growing by the day. With over 30,000 accredited journalists and 20,000 unaccredited journalists from across the globe due to cover the Olympics, the opportunities surrounding an event which will attract a global audience, are endless. But with an appetite for scandal by British journalists, brands are opened up to a host of potential minefields when it comes to corporate sponsorships so how can a brand really prepare for a potential crisis?
In many cases, reputation management and preparation is key – ensuring policies and crisis structures are in place ahead of time, that the chain of command is agreed within an organisation when responding and ultimately all your ducks are in a row for when you approach the media. All of this stands a brand in good stead for potential damage limitation.
Interestingly the issues faced by official sponsors such as athlete behaviour (whatever you do don’t mention Wayne Rooney or Ryan Giggs!), legacy issues and guest experiences can, within reason, be planned for well in advance. One of the biggest issues however, and perhaps hardest to control, is a potential ambush from competitor brands and ‘unofficial sponsors’ jumping on the band wagon.
You only have to look at previous sporting events to see how unofficial brands can capitalise the worldwide media exposure of an event of this kind. For example in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nike carried out some controversial (or some might say clever) ambush marketing over official sponsors Reebok. Not only did the brand buy up all the advertising space around the stadium but they also handed out thousands of Nike flags to spectators attending the Games. The resulting PR featured blanket coverage for unofficial brand Nike. Similarly and more recently in 2010’s World Cup, a group of female Holland fans were thrown out of a Holland game after FIFA suspected them of illegally promoting beer brand, Bavaria, in a suspected ambush marketing campaign.
Time will tell which brands come out on top in next year’s 2012 Olympics, but regardless it’ll be a busy time in the world of PR.