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Report: What is the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics on out of home advertising?

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games saw significant investment in the out of home industry from media owners. But what will be the legacy of the Olympics for out of home? Nick Mawditt, global director of insight and marketing, Kinetic Worldwide, draws on key findings from a recent Kinetic report into the issue.

Out of Home (OOH) media was always going to be an interesting case study for the Olympic Games, due to the fact that LOCOG stipulated so many conditions on the planning and trading of campaigns across the whole period. It is therefore no surprise that the legacy is taken just as seriously by OOH media stakeholders as it was culturally and politically by the rest of the nation. Kinetic Worldwide’s latest report on the legacy of the Olympic Games highlights the experiences that will help plan effective media campaigns in the future. The Olympic Games was a huge opportunity for OOH media to showcase its potential. Advertisers relished the opportunity and took advantage of several one-off opportunities and technological advances in order to create a spectacle for the huge numbers of visitors that travelled to London and the satellite venues for the Games. Consequently, it has meant that OOH delivered many examples of spectacular, domination and time-relevant communication around the 2012 event. Technology had a huge impact on the Games, as was highlighted during the opening ceremony. During the Beijing Games in 2008, only 12 per cent of people in the UK had a smartphone; today that number sits at over 50 per cent. In 2008 you would have had to ask what a tablet was; now over 11 per cent of households in Britain have one. Technology was fundamental to the way the Games were incorporated into people’s lives and certainly helped amplify the extensive communication around the event and across 2012. For example, there were more than 150 million Olympic related tweets made throughout the Games, 4.7 million social followers across official London 2012 channels on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Foursquare and over 150 million downloads of the official app. Virgin Media’s Wi-Fi service on the Underground delivered over eight million tweets, Facebook posts, emails and web pages during London 2012. The service is currently available in 72 London Underground stations and is set to increase to 120 stations. This opens up huge opportunities to engage with consumers whilst they are travelling around London in a way that has never been possible before. OOH media also helped to generate buzz online. Sentiment tended to sway from clear support (the majority for athlete themed ads) to confusion (some ad messages) and negative (mainly around corporate ticketing). Significantly, the ads were clearly noticed. Examples of some of the comments posted were: “the nike ads in oxford circus are awesome; adidas are losing”, “they’ve taken the poster of Jess Ennis at the bus top. Not a good start to the day", “passing Jess Ennis poster every morning on the bus makes my day”. The proliferation of smartphones in the UK giving people access to the web and social media wherever they are helped people to feel closer to the Games and particularly to the athletes, which inevitably meant they felt more engaged to the event as a whole. However, it wasn’t only social media which noticeably affected the way consumers engaged with Games messaging. Tactical Digital OOH really came into its own during the Olympics, with many advertisers using the flexibility of the screens to their full potential. Dynamic content, reacting to events in real time, encouraging interaction and creating a dialogue with consumers were all widely used tactics. Heineken provided a great example of this, delivering a campaign which kept travellers informed with dynamic copy changes showing which events were on that day on a wide variety of formats. Fans were also encouraged to upload photos of which the best would be shown on the Transvision screens in rail stations. Away from media selection, an interesting phenomenon has been the way the British public engaged with the Olympic spectacle itself. Data from the Kinetic Panel noted a gradual rise in interest around national events with a sharp peak in the days before the event commences. At Kinetic, we started monitoring excitement levels building around the Games in October 2010. Even then, 42 per cent of Londoners stated they were excited, but excitement levels grew to 59 per cent the week before the Opening Ceremony. With the success that followed, these numbers were no doubt higher as real engagement took off. In addition, the way that people were watching the Games highlighted the way in which people are enjoying these events are changing. 83 per cent of 18-24s stated that they were going to watch the Games out of the home. Despite initial news of virtually empty streets, footfall for retailers was actually up 16 per cent compared with the same period in 2011. Westfield Stratford City attracted more than 5 million visitors throughout the Games and larger retailers benefited particularly, with John Lewis reporting a 22 per cent year-on-year increase in sales in its stores. From a media perspective, OOH and digital media were the two big winners, with sponsors increasing their online presence to take advantage of interest in the Games through display ads, social and mobile. Sponsors spent approximately £40m during last year’s auction process, primarily on high profile London locations targeting those arriving in London or travelling to the Games. Most of the major sponsors seemed to focus on a combination of high impact, show stopping sites with digital formats on OOH to deliver a mix of impact and efficiency of message. There is a great deal we have learned from the whole delivery of event marketing. Across the summer of 2012, we saw how brands can engage and amplify real public euphoria. Those lessons will be taken on to future events and to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Nick Mawditt, global director of insight and marketing, Kinetic Worldwide For further insights, download a pdf of the Olympics 2012: the legacy of OOH report below.

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