With next year’s Commonwealth Games fast approaching, The Drum catches up with Glasgow 2014’s Gordon Arthur and VisitBritain’s Joss Croft to discuss marketing opportunities around the Games.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games will be the second biggest sporting event to take place on British soil in recent memory, and doubtless there are lessons Scotland’s biggest city can learn from its English counterpart. So what opportunities do the Games present in terms of tourism marketing, and how can Glasgow 2014 build on the success of London 2012?
In terms of tourism marketing, the Games present the ideal opportunity to attract visitors to Scotland. How
might this build on the success of the Olympic year?
Although UK tourist numbers took a five per cent dip in August last year in comparison with August 2011, visitor numbers actually increased one per cent for the whole year – a first for any Olympic host country since Sydney
“It’s less about the Games themselves for us,” explains Joss Croft, marketing director of VisitBritain. “It’s about the opportunities it offers us to promote the UK as a destination. The big opportunity is the media opportunity to get yourself on screen in front of people who have no idea about Britain, or if they think they know about Britain, it’s giving them new reasons to travel.”
Glasgow 2014 is working “hand in glove” with a number of organisations to promote both the destination and the Games in the lead up to 2014, explains Gordon Arthur, chief communications officer for Glasgow 2014.
“We’re working with Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and VisitScotland to promote a combination of Scotland and the Games to a UK audience, because 85 per cent of Scotland’s tourism comes from the rest of the UK.
“With the combination of the Games, the Ryder Cup and the year of the Homecoming, the opportunity to promote Scotland and the UK to the rest of the world is also huge, so we’re working with VisitBritain on that.”
Media relations will play a huge part in the marketing activity around the Games, with rights-holding broadcasters in participating territories being briefed on the wealth of programming opportunities offered. Croft explains that from a destination marketing perspective, the opportunity lies in liaising with these broadcasters to provide them with storylines, imagery and other content to ensure they are capitalising on the coverage.
“There’s a huge amount of work going on at the moment in terms of making broadcasters aware of where they can have their shows – whether they’ve got a backdrop of Edinburgh Castle or the SECC.
“During the 100 metres, the focus is on that, but the periods of time in between offer the opportunity to get new and interesting messages out to people who have very fixed stereotypes.”
Changing perceptions of the UK has been one of the key outcomes of the Olympics, according to Croft, who explains that the UK’s ranking for ‘welcome’ in the GfK Nation Brand Index increased as a result of London 2012.
“People who feel welcome are twice as likely to recommend it to friends and family, and word of mouth is the most important method of marketing that we have. We went from 12th to ninth, and that’s the incredibly important difference that the Olympic Games has made.”
Marketing of the Games has gone past traditional methods. With 92 per cent of consumers trusting recommendations from friends and family over traditional forms of advertising, according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, its key marketers are thinking beyond traditional channels to engage target audiences, something Arthur says he understood from the beginning.
“When I started with Glasgow 2014 I recognised that traditional marketing and communications in themselves wouldn’t be enough to promote our Games.”
Arthur explains Glasgow 2014 has taken a “topdown, bottom-up” approach to all of its marketing, with an emphasis on creating a lasting legacy. As well as traditional communications and marketing teams, the organising committee also includes an ‘engagement legacy’ team committed to this end.
Part of building this engagement included taking 350 volunteers from around Scotland and training them to perform at the handover ceremony in Delhi in 2010.
“If you can harness your legacy programmes, get people genuinely excited and get people from all communities involved, then you’ll get a real swell of support behind the Games,” says Arthur, who claims that three in four people on the street in Scotland have an awareness of the Games.
London 2012 was notoriously restrictive when it came to protecting the rights of its sponsors, with LOCOG calling the shots for brands trying to jump onto the Olympic bandwagon. Will Glasgow 2014 be as draconian, or will brands find more opportunity to use it to their advantage?
“We’re working to educate marketers to make sure they understand what can and can’t be done,” explains Arthur. “We’ve got exclusion zones around all the venues in the same way London 2012, and they will be protected. It’s not dissimilar to the Olympics but hopefully it will be less stringent a regime.”
When it comes to visitors using social media to share their experience of the day, Arthur explains that while the protection of investors’ rights is “paramount”, the organising committee understands that social media is becoming a big element of peoples’ lives, and “it’s about not stifling people”.
“What’s paramount for us is ensuring the protection of those who have invested heavily in the Games, while also making sure people’s experience is a good one.
Everybody wants to be able to say ‘I was there’.”
Burch was interviewed by Stephen Lepitak at The Drum Live. The Drum Live issue, published on 19 July, is available for purchase at The Drum store.