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'It is a business-building platform for brands' - Marketers from P&G, Bridgestone and BMW discuss their Olympic sponsorship plans

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By Minda Smiley, Reporter

March 2, 2016 | 6 min read

At the Sport Business Summit in New York City, marketers from BMW, Bridgestone and Procter & Gamble (P&G) discussed their sponsorship plans for this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil.

During a panel session, Bridgestone North America’s vice president of consumer marketing Phil Pacsi, P&G’s brand director of Olympics & sports marketing Janet Fletcher, and BMW North America’s vice president of marketing Trudy Hardy talked about how they’re contextualizing their brands within the Olympic landscape and what they are hoping to gain from this year’s games.

While both BMW and P&G have been sponsors of the US Olympic teams since 2010, Bridgestone is entering its first Olympic sponsorship this year as an official worldwide partner – and hopes to use the opportunity to unify the company internationally.

Each marketer took turns to offer their plans and views on the forthcoming Games, below is a round up of what they had to say.

P&G

For the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, P&G chose to unite its brands – which include Bounty, Crest and Tide – under one giant campaign called “Thank You, Mom.”

The premise of the heartwarming campaign, created by Wieden & Kennedy, is that behind every Olympic athlete is a mom who has been there every step of the way.

Since its launch, the campaign has proved to be "wildly successful" for the corporate brand – so much so that it continued throughout the 2012 London Olympics, 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, and is set to make an another appearance at this year’s games.

According to Fletcher, P&G will reveal its “anthem mom spot” later this year when the Olympics hits its 100-day countdown.

Aside from “Thank You, Mom,” Fletcher added that P&G has about ten to 12 brands that are currently in the midst of developing their own campaigns.

So what does P&G hope to gain from this year’s games? Fletcher said it’s not just about brand awareness or slapping its logo on an iconic worldwide event.

“One of the myths is that the Olympics is more of an image-building opportunity,” she said. “Over the last three games, we’ve seen how it is a business-building platform for brands.”

Aside from sales, she said that the company looks at return on investment, corporate reputation, and brand familiarity when determining Olympic marketing success.

Bridgestone

Global tire company Bridgestone might be the marketing “new kid on the block” this year at the Olympics, but the Tokyo-based brand has big plans for the event that go way beyond the Rio games.

In 2014, Bridgestone announced that it had entered into an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to serve as an official worldwide partner through the 2024, beginning with this summer’s games in Rio.

“We’re going to use the platform to bring our worldwide family together,” Pacsi said of the Olympics, adding that Rio “is really our learning lab, if you will.”

The choice to become an Olympic sponsor stems from the fact that Bridgestone does business in 150 of the more than 200 countries that are represented in the Olympics, according to Pacsi. He added that the “Olympic movement” is intriguing because of the way that it can “unifity athletes and countries,” which aligns with Bridgestone’s mission of bringing together its global teams.

This year, Bridgestone is only executing activations in the US, Brazil, Korea and Japan as it tests the Olympic waters. Pacsi said that the company will then take those learnings and expand to the rest of the world during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.

While the tire company’s long-term Olympic goals revolve around uniting the brand on a global level, Pacsi said that Bridgestone “must get people in stores buying tires.”

“First and foremost, we are looking for brand awareness but obviously that doesn’t pay the bills. We have a target in mind of what we want to sell this summer from a product standpoint,” he said.

And if the Rio games are serving as the brand’s testing lab, then the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo are what Bridgestone is ultimately working towards, particularly because that’s where it is headquartered.

“Tokyo 2020 is a big deal for us. There’s planning going into that already,” Pacsi said.

BMW

This year, BMW is entering into its sixth year as a partner of the 2016 US and Paralympic Teams.

According to Hardy, when it comes to Olympic sponsorship, it’s all about finding an authentic contribution.

“What can we do to make the athletes perform better?” she said.

For example, during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Hardy said the brand helped implement a velocity measurement system for the US Track & Field Olympic Team. That same year, the brand created a bobsled for Team USA that ended up helping Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton land a third-place win.

This year, BMW is continuing its innovative steak and is designing a wheelchair for the Paralympic US Track & Field Team.

“We’ve released the sketches and we can’t wait for this wheelchair to make its debut. We are super proud for 2016,” she said.

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