Dow Chemical sets infrastructure gold in its sights as a top sponsor

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Q What was your brand’s primary reason for being involved with the Games?

A Dow became the official chemistry company to the Games and a worldwide sponsor in July 2010, when it announced its partnership with the IOC. That runs through 2020. Dow has been on a bit of a journey. It is evolving its offering to be more specialty in nature and to apply it in ways that can help to bring solutions to many of the world’s most pressing challenges in the areas of infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, water, energy – it is focusing its innovation engine on how to help address those issues through chemistry. To do that then you have to get better engaged in the value chain all the way through to the end consumer and to the key decision-makers. So it does require a bit of a different profile and as you look at the Olympics, it provides a couple of things for us. The Olympics is an iconic global brand, with very, very high goodwill associated with it. So the opportunity for Dow to partner with the Olympics will accelerate it raising its profile and give it a platform to tell its story, about how chemistry can make those differences.

It also happens to overlay very nicely with our strategy, which is to grow in growth geographies. If you look to the Games for 2014 being in Russia and for 2016 being in Brazil, it fits very nicely.

Q How have you structured your business to maximise Olympic opportunities?

A Listening to the market is very important, so we spent a fair amount of time early in our sponsorship talking to the organising committees, to the IOC, to architects, engineers, delivery authority members and members of Olympic legacy organisations to understand what they were working on and what their challenges were. We determined that Dow can best help the Games by applying its chemistry to make more sustainable, higher-performing and safer Games. So that’s our focus.

When we got to London, most of the things that Dow is positioned in in the Olympic Park got completed just before or very shortly after it became a sponsor, so its businesses were only engaged as a supplier. I wanted to find a way for Dow to show that even in London it could solve a problem. That opportunity came to us when the public funding for the wrap was pulled. The London organising committee wanted a more sustainable wrap than heritage materials used on stadiums. Part of Dow’s culture is to think about the environmental impact of the materials it uses in its products and processes and the energy used, throughout their lifespan. Dow has never provided a wrap before but it has a long history in polymer science and we introduced ourselves to a number of players in the value chain: inks and graphics, wraps and logistics. We put something together and responded to the tender. We also came up with options for repurposing the wrap after the Games.

Q What are the most crucial commercial opportunities presented by the Games for you?

A Dow is B2B, it doesn’t supply the consumer products that the spectators will come into contact with at the Games. When you look at the Olympics, the vast infrastructure investment that is required to stage the Games, the spectators don’t realise that Dow technology is urethane in the running track, is polymers in the artificial turf, that Dow products are in the wire and cable that allows the rest of the world to see what’s happening. Those applications create a large opportunity for Dow commercially. Over its ten-year sponsorship, about $150bn (£94bn) of infrastructure investment will occur to stage the Games and it has targeted $1bn of incremental revenue growth, just from the infrastructure. Once you have made those relationships around the Olympic infrastructure, a lot of that is public procurement, and it then accelerates your ability to engage with public procurement on other infrastructure projects. Russia needs to spend about $1 trillion revamping post-Soviet infrastructure over the next 20 years. Brazil, over half a trillion. These create big market opportunities for Dow and it uses the Olympics to accelerate that.

Q How has the announcement of Dow’s involvement affected your business?

A A pleasant surprise for me was how this has impacted our employees. Following one of my sessions telling employees about Dow’s Olympic association, one came up to me and said “I can’t wait to get home tonight. Because after hearing your talk I think I can finally explain to my kids what Dad does when he goes to work.”

We’ve also identified an element that wasn’t even on my radar screen: using some of our Olympic assets, like tickets and merchandise branded with the Dow diamond and the Olympic rings, as incentives for our employees. We had a campaign last year that said if you exceed your sales objectives by so much you can have certain merchandise. We were absolutely delighted by how it impacted results.

But I don’t want to come across as a cold, hard businessman. There are a lot of reasons why Dow is here. It was attracted by the principles of the Olympic movement – using sport to bring the world together at the highest level. Dow’s been involved with the Olympics for over thirty years. Today, it is using the Olympics to bring the everyday stories of chemistry to life.

George Hamilton is vice president of Dow Olympic Operations.