On International Paralympic Day Sainsbury’s is relishing the Games

COUNTDOWN TO THE LONDON PARALYMPIC GAMES 2012

356 DAYS TO GO

Gwyn Burr explains the business case for leading the way as the first Paralympics-only corporate sponsor

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

A.I think that the Paralympics movement and Sainsbury’s have a very similar brand ethos. The idea of an active lifestyle for all is something that really chimes with us. If you look what we’ve done with Active Kids – in providing schools with equipment that gets everyone involved in sports – the philosophy of sport for all and everything the Paralympics embodies are absolutely aligned with our thoughts.

Q.How did you structure the case for involvement to the Board?

A.Because we start with the values being fairly well aligned, it wasn’t leftfield for us to want to be involved in the Paralympics. The Paralympics is full of inspiring stories that we thought would resonate particularly well with customers and colleagues. Throughout, colleagues have been absolutely central to our thinking of why we’re so keen to sponsor the Paralympics, which we see as more of a challenger brand. So the conversations at the board table were really about how we can we maximise an investment. We started to look at who we would be working in partnership with – for example, our sponsorship of Channel 4, who has sole rights to broadcast the Paralympics. Then we could start to monetise the media value of our sponsorship. Therefore, it wasn’t the toughest decision we have made by any means.

Q.What was the biggest challenge you faced?

A.The biggest challenge was the challenge of a unique opportunity. In our lifetime we are unlikely to have another Olympics in our home city. There has to be a bit of a leap of faith, as we can’t put on a case study of what’s happened in the past. Inevitably, everything you do is pioneering on this turf, so that always requires us to run worst case scenarios – but we are working with a number of very clear commercial parameters. We have sales targets, brand recognition targets and colleague engagement targets. We agreed those as a board and we are monitoring and tracking those.

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

A.We were well structured for that already, because we already have a sponsorship team and in addition to Active Kids we do a lot of work around Comic and Sport Relief. Another thing that enabled us to see a great fit with the Paralympics was our national store structure, because the Paralympians, as opposed to many Olympians, tend to train in their local community right up to Games time. That’s allowed us to have an infrastructure of Paralympians that we’ve linked to our store regions and depots around the country, so that we literally have those stores sponsoring their individual Paralympian as they track towards the Games. So they are getting our support and a fan base who understand the sport that they are going into.

Q.How did the announcement that you were involved affect your business?

A.Our colleague reaction was quite stunning. They absolutely got that this was right for us as a business – they wanted to get involved. We immediately got on with choosing the Games Makers, as we had the opportunity to have 150 of our colleagues take part in the Games making process. We launched a programme with diversity champions right across the chain to look at how we can ensure that Sainsbury’s is the best place to work and shop for people who are less able, and that’s had the most overwhelmingly positive response. Across our supply base a number of our suppliers are also supporting the Paralympics step forward. For example, we have been able to have great conversations with P&G and Coca-Cola about how to work collaboratively to ensure that the total is greater than the sum of the parts around our sponsorships. Super Saturday, the big concert we are holding in Clapham Common on the 10 September, is co-sponsored by P&G. The idea around Super Saturday is to have music stars – Pixie Lott, Sugababes and Olly Murs – take part in Paralympics sports alongside the Paralympics GB team. Some sports, like goalball and boccia, people aren’t used to watching on a daily basis.

Q.How will you leverage your sponsorship after the Games?

A.We are planning a legacy program. For example, we are selling Paralympics-branded Bags for Life in our stores, which will generate a fund that will be used to sponsor individuals to be trained to conduct classes that are wholly inclusive of those with disabilities. We worked with the gold-winning Paralympian Chris Holmes and Deloitte who launched the Holmes Report and this was identified as a real need. That is something that we are going to take forward as part of our legacy, as we move on towards Rio 2016.

Gwyn Burr is customer service and colleague director of Sainsbury’s and is leading its Paralympic Games programme.