Olympics and Euro 2016 sponsors who don't take risks like Paddy Power's Nicklas Bendtner stunt will fall behind to smaller businesses

Matthew Pryke
Brands must be creative to harness power of the Olympics

This summer’s raft of sporting events creates a global platform for businesses to raise their profile with sponsorship deals. But as marketing campaigns get more creative, innovative and technologically advanced, are traditional sponsorship packages at the Olympics, Euros and Wimbledon, staid, safe and a little boring in comparison?

A study out this week showed which sponsors have been the most effective at Euro 2016 thus far, revealing McDonalds to be the lowest-scoring in terms of originality and engagement with its audience. Despite spending an immense amount of money to associate themselves with the tournament, the brand’s struggle to make an impact is unsurprising given the global negativity around fast foods sponsoring sporting events.

Its message is not on-point, and instead of trying to engage by explaining how the brand is trying to help combat obesity for example, it failed to approach this debate creatively and just kept quiet in the face of social media criticism.

Female Dutch fans stripped at half time to reveal a beer logo at World Cup 2010 (Source: Getty)

For every example of success – Paddy Power’s Lucky Pants and Beats by Dr. Dre’s use of product placement in the 2012 Olympics – there are examples of ambush marketing which have gone very wrong or even stepped on the wrong side of the law. Dutch brewery Bavaria NV exemplified this during a World Cup game, when several women wearing its branded orange mini-skirts under their regular clothing stripped before half-time.

With Anheuser-Busch having paid handsomely to be the official beer of the World Cup and thus own exclusive advertising rights, the Dutch women were subject to brief jail time and subsequent trials for ambush marketing.

Irrespective of this tactic being a risky one, it shines a spotlight on the limited use of creativity or engagement coming from official sponsors who assume they need only pay hefty sums on advertising and traditional activation strategies.

Bendtner unveiled Paddy Power "lucky pants" after scoring at Euro 2012 to grab headlines for the company (Source: Getty)

Businesses can benefit greatly from sponsorship without breaking the bank. The starting point is to understand the legal landscape and the rights secured to ensure the creative brief utilises an association with Trade Marks, straplines and athletes to the benefit of the business.

Technological advancements are a great way for brands to engage with their target audience. The increasing importance on data and big data provides firms with new opportunities to connect with fans and online communities. The creation of online communities, the growth of wearable technology and the ability to capture user information and behaviour when spectators attend events are important opportunities brands should make sure they are benefiting from, both during the event and beyond.

The control of this data is becoming increasingly important to events, official sponsors and partners, increasing the need to tread carefully with a full understanding of the regulations to avoid these business opportunities becoming a ‘false-start’.

With the Olympics coming up next month, brands sponsoring sporting events need to ask themselves whether they are pulling out all the creative stops necessary to engage with fans, as opposed to solely concerning themselves with the money invested to utilise traditional forms of brand association.

If they don’t, it will be the smaller, more creative businesses who creep up behind them and steal their spotlight when it matters most.

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