The global supply chain bringing every part of the Games to the UK


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

A To showcase our complete supply chain capability. The Games is the largest peacetime logistical event that’s ever staged. The supply chain is extremely complex, it covers air, ground, customs brokerage, warehousing logistics, venue management – it really is the gamut. And what makes it the pinnacle is that the supply chain is temporary: it’s only in that one place one time; you have to create it. And at the same time it has to be flawless. There’s no room for error. You can’t have the starters at the track and field event without a pistol, or some champion cyclist without his bicycle. You can’t have broadcasters show up and not have microphones and cameras. There can be no delay. All of that challenge means that it highlights our capability as a brand that can act globally to create and coordinate such a huge local endeavour. That then provides an opportunity for us to show customers large and small that if we can do all this for the Olympics, think what pieces of this supply chain we can bring to your business, to reach whatever corner of the world or solve whatever challenge or difficulty you are facing.

UPS has been involved with the Olympics before, at first primarily for hospitality, and then in Beijing we got involved as a logistics provider. We used our suite of services and products to help bring the Games to life. But to put things in perspective, in Beijing we handled about 19m items. That wasn’t all of them, but our portion was 19m. Here in London, we are the sole logistics provider and we will be handling, warehousing and coordinating delivery of 30m items. Everything from 4,283 whistles to some 400 tons of broadcast equipment. It’s an amazing adventure, and the challenge doesn’t stop when the Games end. We have about 18 months to get all the equipment in and get it ready. Once the Games are over, there’s an even shorter window of time when all the equipment must go somewhere else. Once it’s over and everybody takes a sigh of relief, that’s when we jump back in.

Q How did you structure the case for involvement to the board?

A Beijing is an emerging market for us and our engagement there was to promote some brand awareness. We’ve seen about a 33 per cent awareness and business growth based on that exposure. Fast-forward to London and what we tried to structure in the case was the importance of London in the global marketplace. Even though we’re established here in London and UPS has been around in London for a long time, London is still a strategic city and the UK is a strategic country whether you’re talking from an European perspective but also with its trading capabilities with businesses around the world. We felt it became an obvious choice for us to put as much effort if not more into the UK market. We’ve also planned a $200m expansion of Cologne, which houses our European air gateway, because right now we’re busting at the seams, and London and the UK plays a big part in that growth plan.

Q How are you handling the allocation of tickets you have been able to purchase as a sponsor?

A You can never get enough tickets. I know, as an individual who lives here in London and who has family just like everyone else, and long-lost neighbours and friends who want to know if you have tickets to some event. What we’ve done at UPS is to have a segment of the tickets to provide opportunities to the local UPSers, the men and women who do an amazing job, not just here in London but around the UK. We’ve really tried to allow as many UK UPSers as possible to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not just with tickets, but in opportunities to run a segment of the torch relay, and by providing an opportunity for some of our amazing drivers to drive the torches around the relay.

Q What has surprised you most about your involvement to date?

A UPS has had a chance to use the test events at the venues to work out all the bugs and the kinks at all the different venues. We have to stage a couple of events in Greenwich Park – an amazing, iconic place. You might think that’s easy, given the size of Greenwich Park – it goes on forever, it’s beautiful – but then we realised you can only get equipment in and out of the venue through one gate. You’re taking everything in you can think of, including horses. Maybe 5,000 pieces of equipment have to go in and out, but one vehicle has to go in and get emptied and then come out and you’re waiting to get the next full vehicle in. That was a pretty big surprise.

Q What advice can you give non-offical partners to help them make the most of the opportunities of the Games?

A Most of the customers I’ve spoken with understand the microscope and the opportunity that the London Games is bringing to them as a business here. It will help elevate and promote business for the small, the medium and the large brands and businesses. It’s going to be a great experience for the city.

Cindy Miller is managing director for UPS UK, Ireland and Nordics.