2012 is a special year for Great Britain and London is at the centre of all the action. London is clearly among the most popular cities of the world. This year, along with the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations, this historic city played host to the Olympics. As banal as it may sound, but it doesn’t get bigger than this. All around the World, people witnessed this spectacle. The expectations were high and so were the stakes for all concerned. After years of preparation, over 15 days of the event, there was on display the best of sporting action. The whole World watched as athletes from 204 Nations slugged it out in London.
A few facts about London 2012 :
While all of us cheered and celebrated, the Marketers among us were extremely watchful.Blame it on the field of their work, but Marketers can’t stop wondering how the brand Olympics fared this time around and whether it did live up to the big hype and expectations, or did it disappoint. They’re wondering what masses made of these Games.
We had similar questions and so we decided to get some answers. Using our proprietary brand monitoring tool – Iristrack™, we took upon the mammoth task of collecting all online mentions about Olympics & our study has thrown up some interesting results.
The objective of our study is to broadly understand what all is talked about this grand event that comes once in four years. We aimed to track mentions of Olympics, in conjunction with the associated brands and do the following:
- Analyze the mentions and gather some understanding of what was broadly published/spoken in the context of Olympics
- Identify major Negative and Positive stories
- Gauge how the various Brands associated with Olympics fared vis-à-vis each other
- Try and map what is perceived of various brands’ association with Olympics
- Analyze what were the strong trends in conversations about the associated brands
- What all brands dominated Social Media platforms
The study was carried out using our online tracking tool – Iristrack:
- Starting first week of June, till August 12th, we captured several online conversations, stories, articles about Olympics across the web – be it Twitter, Blogs, News sites… all that was in the public domain
- Several Lakhs of mentions were picked up by our system as the broad sample space; Data was sampled randomly within this space and classified along identified parameters
- Mentions of various associated brands were pulled out in segregated projects, sampled, and classified
- The classified data was then analyzed
Volumes and Trends
A volumetric analysis and a deep dive into the data yielded the following:
- The number of conversations and stories about the Olympics were quite low through the month of June
- The momentum started building as we approached the second week of July, with just 15 days to go for the Opening ceremony
- The most talked about things, early in the course of our study were – The Torch Relay and the Opening Ceremony; However, as the games started, Athletes and the sporting events took the lion’s share of mentions
- Before the start of the games, spikes in conversations were preceded by news stories. Be it the scandal of MPs getting free tickets from BT or the stringent sponsor protection policies enforced by LOCOG, all got mentioned extensively on Social Media
- Olympics targeted Ad campaigns also led to spurts in mentions, before the sporting action took over
- Towards the latter part of our study, there was a high density of mentions about the Athletes. Winners and record makers got mentioned excessively
- Arrangements and Logistics for the Olympics were quite talked about as well. There were various conversations about tickets initially but faded out later
SentimentHosting Olympics and marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee the same year has meant a grand celebration year for Britain. The overall sentiment about the Olympics has been strongly positive with excitement and enthusiasm.
- The new games park and the sophisticated networking infrastructure were talked about, terming this the most connected Olympics ever
- A few good advertisements also liked and appreciated
- There was a flood of mentions lauding performances of Athletes – Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps leading the pack
- Like for any major event, the London 2012 games had their share of embarrassments and controversies that led to quite a few negative mentions
- A lot of negative mentions were about the excessive commercialization of Olympics – be it the tax breaks to sponsors or the shameless branding
- A major negative story was Dow sponsoring the Olympics
- There were also a strong negative sentiment toward the security arrangements
Besides all this, there were also a few negative mentions about the transportation problems faced, exclusivity of Visa across the venues, budget overruns, MPs’ ticket scam etc.
Sponsoring or Partnering with Olympics is a big commitment for any brand. A company invests a lot of time, money and other resources when they sign-up for something as big as Olympic Games sponsorship. So, while the cost of sponsoring the event across the companies is comparable, the value drawn from this association varies widely. There have been huge successes and there have been under achievers. Here we compare how each of them did and what impact did they really create.
To quantify the impact of sponsorship, we have used a metric – Impact index. This index captures the impact by way of measuring the sentiment and the strength/momentum of the sentiment.
P&G takes the Gold; cheers to moms
As one hears about the World’s largest FMCG Company’s association with the Olympics, it seems to make sense at the very first thought. But as you think deeper, critically questioning how P&G can leverage this partnership, the initial excitement fades, and rather quickly. Just highlighting the partnership with Olympics on packaging across products doesn’t really help much. The challenge for P&G was to create a strong, positive association that would outlast the event. And with the target audience being women, 25+ years of age, makes the task even more daunting. P&G’s ‘Thank you mom’ campaign was as brilliant as it could get.
Acknowledging the contribution of mothers inthe glory of athletes, did strike a chord with everyone. The theme was well executed with Advertisements and a strong Social Media campaign. If there were a competition between brands at leveraging the association with Olympics, P&G would take Gold home.
The other big brand that managed to create a good positive impact was Samsung. Samsung’s big Olympics push with Samsung S3 promotions, David Beckham did help the brand create a good impact but probably for a very high cost.
Among other sponsors, Omega and BMW managed to create a positive impact. Omega, by the virtue of the strength of its association with Olympics and BMW by way of its ‘Spot the golden BMW’ campaign and the Pavilion, managed to do well.
While Coca Cola got a big share in mentions and their cans and bottles were liked online, along with its ‘Move to the Beat of London’ Ad, the unhealthy aspect of the product kept the negatives flowing in as well. Hence a lower overall impact.
The Tragedy that is Dow Chemicals
If there is one brand that did itself a lot more harm than good this Olympics, it is Dow Chemicals. There have been constant protests against Dow’s association with the Olympics and the increased noise over the past few months has led to even more hatred build up against the company. The awareness levels of the various ethical wrongdoings committed by Dow at Bhopal and Vietnam have increased manifold and become mainstream.
If you think that was as bad as things could go for Dow at Olympics, you’re wrong. Dow did something more to make it worse for themselves. They introduced what is being termed as the worst mascot ever – Faceless Wedge man. None could see sense in an unpleasant looking mascot trying to promote the cause of environment, and that too from Dow. Nothing seems to have gone right for Dow at the Olympics. Their association with the Olympics has led to it becoming the worst faring sponsor with a negative impact index of -(.0093)
When companies think about sponsorships, one key expected takeaway is influencing brand perception positively. For an event like Olympics, the expectation would be to be perceived as a brand that adds value to the World. At the same time, the brands, through their various activities, strive to establish a stronger association with the brand Olympics. In our attempt to analyse the performance of various brands qualitatively, we analysed the conversations about them and createdperceptual maps with Strength of Association as one dimension, and Value created the second.
Going by our analysis, it can be inferred that BT and Visa did well in terms of creating strong association with the Olympics. BT managed to do so by providing technology support for the Games and the close ties to the Organising body due to its British roots. On the other hand, while Visa’s exclusivity arrangement with the Olympics has been criticised by quite a few, it has worked in Visa’s favour to strengthen the perception of association with the event.
Cisco and GE have contributed a lot to the Games by way of providing Networking infrastructure and world class Medical equipment for the games, respectively. The PR stories highlighting their contribution to the games ensured these two companies were perceived to have created high value for the games.
In stark contrast, Adecco is one of the brands that failed to get much leverage in terms of public perception.
While brands were mentioned and talked about across the web, there were a few that managed to get mentioned a lot by users on Social Media channels. For a brand, to be spoken about by users, definitely bodes well. We analyzed what percentage of the total mentions for a brand was on Social Media, to understand which brands enjoyed Social leverage.
As the chart above suggests, P&G bagged the top spot here as well. Due to a strong connect with the masses and a campaign well executed on Social Media, P&G was extensively mentioned in conversations.
UPS, despite its low overall impact, got most of its mentions on Social Media. Along with the Ad campaign, the innovative style of sending empty boxes to people did get it a lot of attention, though quite a bit of that was bashing.
For the whole list of brands, the average percentage of mentions coming from Social Media was around 64%. And Adecco failed to impress here as well. As one is forced to think, there probably is strong correlation between the study of brand perceptions and their success in getting discussed on Social Media, and it makes perfect sense.
Various things were spoken about various brands. But there were a few that had a particular trend running strong across its mentions. We measure the strength of trends for brands using a simple metric – the percentage of brand’s total mentions belonging to one particular trend.
Trend strength for a particular trend tells us what it was about the brand that was most talked about. High trend strength for a desired context like an ad campaign tells us that the campaign was successful. On the contrary, high trend strength for an undesired context will imply failure of a brand in diverting attention for the negatives.
Omega has been the official timekeeper for Olympics for over 80 years and this association is very well highlighted across all official timekeeping equipment and screens. Timekeeping and their catchy ‘Start me up’ campaign ensured a major chunk of conversations about the brand were about either of these two trends
As you would have figured by now, the most talked about thing about Dow chemicals this Olympics was its tainted association with the event. Their various attempts at highlighting their other positive contributions for the games fell flat.
Conclusion – Lessons for the Brands
A unified theme that focuses on the target audience works, even if the overall media push is low
P&G did it with ‘Thank you Mom’ and BA(British Airways) did it with ‘Don’t fly, support team GB’. Over 90% of P&G’s mentions were around the bran’s theme. A likeable theme directed at their target audience worked wonders. However, Samsung’s scattered media push through Vans, Ads, Brand Ambassador delivered good impact as well, but probably for a much higher cost, and hence a lower RoI
Keep a close watch on what people are saying about your brand and take corrective action
McDonalds, Coke, GE and Visa, among other brands, got a lot of flak online for being beneficiaries to Tax exemptions extended to them by the government. Taking cognizance of an Online petition campaign protesting the tax break, these companies acted swiftly and waived the tax breaks. Clearly, this action did help restrict the damage
Social Media must be taken seriously and should form an integral part of the campaign
We’ve observed that the brands that used Social Media extensively, did see a strong momentum build up for their messages. P&G did a great job at leveraging social media and their ‘Thank you, mom’ Facebook page has gathered over 765,000 likes in about 9 months. A strong social media push also ensures that on-ground local campaigns become global
Measure the impact
This requires no mention, but we’ve heard of few brands critically analyzing and measuring the impact of their sponsorship effort. Measuring the impact by way of analyzing online conversations could be a useful instrument. Whatever be the goal of association, the RoI of the association must be calculated and benchmarked against other associated brands
With digital becoming the primary medium for conversations, such studies become extremely relevant tools for mark research. We hope we’ll see brand managers get deeper into analysing online mentions and base their business decisions like sponsoring backed with prudent data analysis, than using some heuristics.