How a worldwide sponsor captures every dimension of the 2012 Games

 
Marc Sidwell
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COUNTDOWN TO THE LONDON 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES
128 DAYS TO GO

Q.WHAT WAS YOUR BRAND’S PRIMARY REASON FOR BEING INVOLVED WITH THE GAMES?

A.We’ve been involved with the Games since 1984. When the top sponsor programme started in 1988, we were one of the first to join at that level, but our earliest involvement was in 1984 in Los Angeles, with big Astrovision screens. For Panasonic, our Olympic involvement goes back to the thinking of the company. Our founder Konosuke Matsushita started the company in 1918 and he wrote a set of business principles, five at the time and two more added after the Second World War, together with a philosophy, a management creed for how we should conduct ourselves every day and try and conduct business. They are: contribution to society; fairness and honesty; cooperation and team spirit; an untiring effort for improvement; courtesy and humility; adaptability; and gratitude. It’s the type of thing that you take out of the office with you, it’s not just written on the wall. If you work in Panasonic, if you don’t believe in this, it’s difficult, you’ve got to get into what the company is about. But it’s very neutral, based on humanist principles. We came across a global event in the Olympic Games with a huge pull across so many sporting areas and the theme and the purpose of the Olympic Games are very similar to those of Panasonic, so it became quite an easy fit for us, to get our business philosophy together with the ideals of the IOC and the Games itself. Our chairman at the time and the president of the company were looking for something to contribute to society through sport. The opportunity came through the Games and they took it. The founder was still alive, retired but still honorary chairman. We were both with the company then and can both remember it as an amazing and exciting announcement.

Of course, from the point of view of marketing it raises our brand, it takes our image into many homes. We are a manufacturer of some of the world’s leading audiovisual technologies, which we’d like to think are being used to watch the Games. But we are always quite fussy in our company about the way we lift the brand and how we associate the brand with the principles we’ve been handed down. The Games gives us that very ethical association.

Q.WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES OF THE GAMES FOR YOU?

A.On the face of it, being an audiovisual sponsor says to most of the general public that we’re the people that are the official television and camera sponsor to the Games, but Panasonic’s technology is very deep. As a company, we are a black box engineering firm, and the technology that we bring to the Games to support it is enormous. Everything that is captured is on Panasonic equipment and we have great pride in that – all the cameras, the screens, some 22,000 television sets on the site and the Olympic Broadcasting Organisation will have all Panasonic equipment. Up until the signal is handed over to the BBC or Eurosport, it is all on Panasonic cutting-edge broadcast equipment. We do a lot more than we might appear to. Around 100 engineers will be on hand to make sure it never fails – we’ve never had a failure so far since 1984.

This is also the first time that we’ll see some of the Olympic Games in 3D. We’re extremely excited about that. Panasonic is the first in the world to have a complete end-to-end solution for production of 3D, from cameras to the screens at home.

We have a massive portfolio of product that’s supporting the Games, down to the microwave ovens in the athletes’ village. In compact cameras and camcorders, we have everything from a tiny pocket size to ultra-professional cameras and they share the same technology. Some are branded with the Olympic symbols on. That’s a very, very strict process with the London organising committee, I can’t say how tough it is, it takes a couple of years.

As part of the Cultural Olympiad, we do a thing called National Film Shorts. Young people up and down the country get loaned Panasonic equipment and inspired to make films. The winners are going to be played on the main screens in the stadium during the breaks in the events.

It’s quite cultural. If you look at the Games as simply a commercial opportunity you miss out on much wider opportunities. If you do those things, like the live sites programme around the country, and build good products that enhance people’s lives, they will buy the products off you. That’s our way at Panasonic.

Q.WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT TO DATE?

A.The Games takes you into areas of sport and cultural society that you don’t normally get to. We met the English National Ballet managing director as an offshoot, who was interested in 3D. It’s also amazing to see how our technologies can help sportspeople. The heptathlete Louise Hazel, our Olympic ambassador, is over the moon with the 3D cameras we’ve provided because she can see in detail her performance in so many ways.

Keith Evans is the managing director of Panasonic for the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Ralph Higson is director of the London Olympic project for Panasonic.