Official timekeeper for 2012 finds too many brand benefits to count

David Hellier
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Omega’s president Stephen Urquhart explains why it will be keeping time in London once again

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

A. Omega first served as Official Olympic Timekeeper at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games and the London Games will mark its 25th occasion in that role. “Our role is very historical. Since first getting involved with the International Olympic Committee we have built up a strong relationship and we now have a contract to continue up to 2020.

“We’re selling our services to the IOC but in a sense it’s a win-win situation. We’re buying marketing rights but there’s also on-site publicity for the brand. It’s a clean venue (free of stadium advertising) but Omega’s products are visible and the Omega logo will feature on some television screens. This is an incredibly good asset to have. It gives Omega a very good image.”

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

A. Our continuing involvement in the Olympics is a no-brainer for Omega. The only thing we did in the 1990s as a group was temporarily hand over the contract to the Swatch brand (Swatch and Omega are both part of the Swatch group) but the board was fully behind giving it back to Omega in 2006. The Olympics is part of the company’s DNA. One third of the Omega museum in Bienne, our home town, is devoted to our association with the Olympics.

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

A. We've got specific Olympic teams. For example, there's a team flying out to Rio to discuss preparations for the Games there but London is the main focus for now. The team is working on technical aspects of our systems. You can’t change times but we can develop back-up systems to prevent anything going wrong. Then there’s the hospitality side that we need to get right. For instance, we’ve had a team in London maybe 10 times trying to get the right hotel. (The best guess is that Omega has chosen the Four Seasons).

Q. How will you handle hospitality and tickets in the light of the new Bribery Act legislation?

A. There might be one or two people we wanted to invite that we won’t be able to now. But there are people we will invite as a token of gratitude. We like to see this as a large family re-union rather than as an incentive trip but we have made some modifications to our guest list. But we will obviously have to be careful about this.

Q. The Games present numerous commercial opportunities. Which are the most crucial for you and how will you be using these for maximum return?

A. Each Games has a different message. In Beijing there was a distinct Chinese message whereas London will be very specific to the city. We will invite key partners such as landlords, retailers and consumers and there’s a huge demand to come here. Each day there will be between 4-5bn people watching the event and there’s no way of evaluating the worth of this to the brand.

Like the moon landings and the Co-Axial technology of George Daniels, Omega is forever associated with the Olympics. They’re all part of our DNA.

What is special about London? The Games are being held in an area which nobody outside London previously thought existed. It’s a major and brave decision to base the Games there and it could create a whole new area for the future. We have a store there (the afternoon we met, Urquhart was heading off for the store’s official opening in the Westfield shopping centre, Stratford). It would be great if the area became part of London life in the future.

But obviously some of the events are being staged in established venues like Lord’s and Wimbledon. Few cities in the world have this combination of old and new. London’s a great choice.

Q. How do you monitor your progress in achieving your commercial objectives and how will you judge your success post-Games?

A. The number one objective will be to be the perfect timekeeper. If Omega is never mentioned, then in a way that would be a good thing. It would mean that everything would have worked perfectly and we would have a showcase brand being seen in the best possible light.

Stephen Urquhart is the president of Omega.