The Drum Live: Traditional marketing communications ‘not enough’ to promote Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, says chief communications officer

Traditional marketing communications in itself is not enough to promote Glasgow 2014, with engagement playing a greater role in terms of ensuring the Commonwealth has a positive impact on the UK, according to Gordon Arthur, chief communications officer at the Games.

As part of a session at The Drum Live looking at the tourism marketing opportunities around 2014 and building on the Olympic legacy, Arthur explained the organising committee behind Glasgow 2014 have had to take a “different view” from the Olympics and previous Commonwealth Games when it came to building engagement with the Games in 2014.

“Right from when I started with Glasgow 2014 I recognised that traditional marketing and communications in themselves wouldn’t be enough to promote our Games.

“Typically for a Commonwealth Games, ticket holders come from within a three-hour drive time of the host city. We’ve got a million tickets to sell, and we haven’t got enough people within a three-hour drive time of Glasgow to sell a million tickets to. So we had to take a different view from day one, to make sure we engaged people – particularly in Scotland – with the Games.”

Arthur explained Glasgow 2014 has taken a “top-down, bottom-up” approach to all of its marketing, with an emphasis on creating a lasting legacy. The organising committee, as well as traditional communications and marketing teams, also includes an ‘engagement legacy’ team committed to this end. One of the aims of the organising committee, explained Arthur, is ensuring people don’t feel they have missed out or have regrets about not getting involved.

He revealed that results of this focus on engagement and the “Olympic bounce” have included a record 51,000 volunteer applications for next year’s Games – with one third of those coming from people outside Scotland.

Meanwhile, Joss Croft, marketing director, VisitBritain said that both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, in terms of tourism opportunities, serve to promote the UK as a destination.

He explained that although UK visitor numbers saw a dip of five per cent during August last year in comparison with August 2011 as a result of the Olympics, the figure increased by one per cent for the whole year – the first time for any Olympic host country since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

“It’s not about the Games for us,” said Croft. “It’s about the opportunities it offers us to promote the UK as a destination.” He added that content is critical for achieving this as part of VisitBritain’s marketing strategy.

“As a marketing organisation for a destination, we don’t own a ‘product’ per se – so it’s critical we’ve got the content and the events right.” He added that digital and social is key to this, with social media being used not only to promote the Games, but also to encourage Games visitors to venture further afield and view the whole of the UK as a destination.

Many of those involved originally in leveraging tourism opportunities around the Olympics are now helping to influence opportunities around the Commonwealth Games and transfer some of that knowledge, Croft said.

Arthur agreed that the London 2012 team have been “hugely supportive” in terms of sharing insights and learning lessons from the Olympics.

“The real benefit we had was private conversations [as opposed to the organised knowledge transfer programmes] with individuals who have said ‘if I could have done it differently, this is what I would have done,’ and everyone from London 2012 was – and continues to be – very open with us.”

The pair were speaking at The Drum Live, with more on this session available in The Drum's upcoming edition on 19 July.

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