Preparing for flawless execution: BT takes on the Olympic challenge

 
Marc Sidwell
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COUNTDOWN TO THE LONDON 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES 219 DAYS TO GO

Gavin Patterson, BT Retail chief executive, explains why his firm is the communication partner at the Games

Q. WHAT WAS YOUR BRAND’S PRIMARY REASON FOR BEING INVOLVED WITH THE GAMES?
A. We went through a rigorous exercise where we looked at what impact it would have on our customers and whether or not we could supply against what is a very demanding and challenging contract. And what we saw in research was that it would have a positive impact on the brand, it would have a positive impact on the organisation and – with our track record of delivering on major infrastructure projects, particularly communications projects – we felt that we could support the Games and that it was going to be a worthwhile investment for us.

Q. HOW DID YOU STRUCTURE THE CASE FOR INVOLVEMENT TO THE BOARD?
A. For us there are two parts to the decision. The first is there’s a major infrastructure contract and can we deliver against the specification and still do that in a cost-effective way, recognising that understandably the IOC have very demanding standards.

The second is the marketing and sponsorship side of the equation, and you’ve got to be absolutely confident that there is sufficient opportunity to showcase your capabilities and the products and services that you offer your customers and that it’s going to have a positive impact on your brand.

Q. WHAT WAS THE HARDEST QUESTION OR ISSUE TO RECONCILE IN ORDER TO GET BOARD APPROVAL?
A. Each part of the equation had its challenges. The infrastructure specification is demanding and the consequence of failure is significant, so we need to build huge resilience into the solution. It’s providing all the communications links for all the venues across the UK and ensuring that delivers for the 4bn who are going to be watching these Games from around the world, so you can imagine there’s a lot at stake

On the marketing side, the Olympics authority knows exactly what the value of this is and it drives a hard bargain. On both sides, these are sought-after contracts and so there are a lot of companies that want to be associated and it is a competitive tendering situation. That said, we spent a lot of time looking at how we could make sense of this and create value for the company and we’re confident that we will and that we’re on track to do so.

Q. HOW DO YOU MONITOR YOUR PROGRESS IN ACHIEVING YOUR COMMERCIAL OBJECTIVES AND HOW WILL YOU JUDGE YOUR SUCCESS POST-GAMES?
A. There are four key things we’re looking to achieve. First and foremost is delivery: the Games has to be a flawless execution and we’re extremely cognisant of that. Secondly, we want BT employees to be proud of our association; thirdly there is a positive impact on the BT brand; fourthly we must take advantage of the commercial opportunities the association with the Olympics affords.

Q. THE GAMES PRESENT NUMEROUS COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES. WHICH ARE CRUCIAL FOR YOU?
A. At the top level, we’ve seen a positive association with the Olympic movement for the brand: customers do acknowledge that if you’re investing in the Olympics you’re doing something good for the nation. Secondly, our involvement in the Olympics is proving a good opportunity to talk to customers about the breadth of capabilities and services we can offer, from multinational corporates to smaller businesses. It’s a great showcase. In the consumer market, we’ve done all sorts of things: one example at the moment is Record Breakers – if you can make a phone call for exactly the time of an Olympic record you have a chance of winning a pair of tickets. It’s proving to be very popular – and links usage of our products and services with the Olympic ideal in a fun way.

Q. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE NON-OFFICIAL PARTNERS TO HELP THEM MAKE THE MOST OF THE OLYMPICS?
A. If you are anticipating any guerrilla marketing, think again. There is zero tolerance for it. I think the Games themselves, if you’re not trying, say, to directly use the Olympic logo, will create business opportunities across the whole of the UK. Also, BT is advising businesses and suppliers to think about the impact the Games will have on their day-to-day business. Ensure you’ve prepared for business as unusual.
Gavin Patterson is the chief executive of BT Retail.

Preparing the infrastructure is demanding and the cost of failure is significant