The Drum Awards for PR 2022

Live in -h -min -sec

Sainsbury's Channel 4 London 2012 Olympics

London 2012: Why Sponsors Need to Create Olympic Content, Not Just Badge It

By Kath Hipwell |

June 6, 2012 | 8 min read

As London 2012 Olympic activity ramps up with just over a month until the event itself kicks into life, Kath Hipwell planning director who oversees Red Bee Media's content strategy rounds up some of the content strategies being implemented by brands and media partners aiming to get as much out of the sporting occasion as they possibly can.

Creating relevant content is now an essential part of 21st century marketing. Particularly, it would seem, when the goal is to own an event such as the London 2012 Olympics. So many powerful brands are fighting to get their pound of Olympic flesh that sponsors need to leverage their VIP access in every way they can.

Four years ago, Coca-Cola, BMW and Sainsbury’s may have just made conventional ads or attached their logo to pieces of content. But in today’s world where brands are increasingly seeking to be the content, not interrupt it, they have created something much more engaging. As part of their London 2012 sponsorship activity, Coke will create more than 120 pieces of content compared with a measly three TV ads and six posters for Beijing 2008.

Coca-Cola – Move to the Beat

Never mind the smell of Olympic success then, Coke have decided to bottle the sound of sport. One of their initiatives, ‘Move to the beat of the London 2012 Olympic Games’, is a collaboration between Coke and Mark Ronson which hopes to record the sounds of Olympic sports and transform them into something approaching music.

The attempt is captured in a 25 minute film aired on E4 which makes for entertaining viewing. It also captures the optimistic, global, youthful spirit reminiscent of Coke’s iconic ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’ ad from 1971 – another global harmony co-created by Coke.

BMW – The Ultimate Performance

BMW has taken a more philosophical approach, using Olympic athletes as a metaphor for their product as they explore what it takes to produce ‘The Ultimate Performance’. They created four short documentary films, directed by award-winning documentary makers and released one a week to keep consumers coming back for more.

One of the most successful is arguably ‘Power, Speed and Endurance’ directed by Asif Kapadia, the BAFTA winning director of Senna. He draws parallels between the golden age of athletics and of automobiles, so the audience can’t help but view both as high performance machines. It’s then just a short hop to ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’.

adidas Bodycare – TomDaley.TV

From the ultimate driving machine, to the ultimate diving machine, in the form of Britain’s very own Tom Daley. Arguably one of the most marketable Olympic athletes, Tom has been busy creating some content of his own at TomDaley.TV. Brands were not too far off the scent though and adidas got involved by taking over Tom’s official web TV channel for the month of May. The sponsored videos inform us that he trains for a gruelling six hours a day, six days a week, and that adidas Bodycare will be “keeping Tom cool under pressure”.

The content shares some of his impressive skills and Tom delivers his pieces to camera with such well-groomed charm that you can’t help but smile. There are plenty of smiley faces in the incredibly supportive tweets being streamed on the site too. In fact, it all feels rather perfect – right down to the Union Jack duvet cover and coordinating adidas deodorant can…

Sainsbury’s – Sainsbury’s and Channel 4 Present…

A series of 10 short films aired on Channel 4 and helps Sainsbury’s amplify their sponsorship of the Paralympic Games. Paralympic athletes, including gold-medal winning swimmer Ellie Simmonds, share their tales of dedication to their sport and the sacrifices they are having to make on the way to the Games. The resulting stories feel compelling and intimate, although unfortunately Sainsbury’s sponsorship is bolted onto the end in quite an ungainly manner, which rather breaks the spell. That said, the series is highly watchable and affords Sainsbury’s a platform from which to share its commitment to promoting healthier, more active lifestyles for all ages and abilities. A laudable goal indeed and one in line with the event it’s sponsoring.

British Airways – Boy

Perhaps the most ambitious, brave and emotionally powerful work though is from British Airways (BA). Their Na href="">‘Great Britons’ programme has led to the creation of a stunning film entitled ‘Boy’. This incredibly moving and beautiful nine minute story was penned by Great Britons winner Prasanna Puwanarajah and features Timothy Spall. The story is one step removed from the Olympic Games and feels more original and authentic for it, while elements set in the Olympic Park’s Velodrome ensure its relevance. It will be seen by up to six million BA passengers this summer; the fact that it is a silent film makes it all the more transportable.

With incredibly subtle branding, save for the end credits of their film, you might ask what’s in it for BA? Certainly they’re not getting the product placement of adidas or the overt meshing of their logo with the 2012 Olympics that Sainsbury’s nail on to the end of their work. But for my money their modest approach is hugely powerful and shifts my perceptions of the brand in a way their recent advertising has failed to do. I admire them for their respectful and sophisticated engagement with the Games and I bet when passengers watch Boy on BA flights there is much sobbing in the aisles. And if you can make your audience cry, you’re halfway there.

It feels like a new era of sponsorship is dawning.

One in which associations can and should be made to say a whole lot more about the brand than merely a proud supporter of…

The changing media landscape means that brands no longer have to interrupt audiences to get their attention; instead we can create conversations and gripping content that they’ll choose to engage with. At Red Bee Media, we believe content is the key to making sponsorships much more effective, achieving not just logo awareness, but a real attraction to your brand. Use content well and you’ll raise awareness, deepen engagement and convert an audience into a customer base.

What do you think? Is content now an essential part of 21st century sponsorships? Can non-sponsors use content to create an association not possible elsewhere due to tight regulation?

Sainsbury's Channel 4 London 2012 Olympics

More from Sainsbury's

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +