Ambush marketing and olympic brand: a management moodel

Por: Benoit Seguin e Holger Preuss.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

Results of previous studies (1) revealed that the Olympic Games remain one of the most prestigious global sports properties available in the market place today. Brand studies also suggest that the Olympic brand currently enjoys tremendous equity worldwide (2). The "Power" of the brand is believed to provide partners with benefits that are not available in other sport properties. Furthermore, interest from consumers, corporations, broadcasters, governments and bidding cities are believed to be at an all time high. As a result, the financial stability of the Olympic movement is seen to be secure for years to come (3). While the Olympic brand enjoys tremendous value, over commercialisation and ambush marketing remain two key challenges to the management of the brand.

Methods

The purpose of this qualitative study was to procure, assess and disseminate perceptual context and practices specific to ambush marketing and the Olympic marketing programme. In total 25 interviews were conducted with executives representing the following groups: a) TOP and NOC sponsors; b) IOC, NOC and OCOG executives; and c) industry experts (researchers, sport marketing firms, consultants, etc.). The analysis led to the development of a model to manage ambush marketing.

Results

The results suggest that ambush marketing remains an important threat to the Olympic property. Perhaps even more important than the problems related to ambush marketing is the issue of clutter. Another problem identified by most experts was related to the inability of the Olympic property to protect the rights of sponsors. This makes it easier for ambush marketers to create marketing campaigns that clearly associate with the Olympic brand without breaking any laws. Thus, brand protection as well as rights protection remains high priorities for all levels of the Olympic organization (IOC-NOC-OCOG). While it was found that ambush marketing could never be totally eliminated, the results of our analysis identified the following key components used to develop a model to manage ambush marketing:

  1. management and protection of Olympic brand;
  2. development of a strategic marketing communications program;
  3. integrated public relations program including programs related to brand image, sponsor recognition programs and consumer education;
  4. activation of rights by partners through integration of Olympic brand within their marketing communications programs;
  5. IOC-NOC-OCOG and sponsors must have a "true understanding" of Olympic brand and work together in integrating communications programs thus creating brand consistency and;
  6. educating NOCs in brand management

Discussion / Conclusions

The issue of ambush marketing is closely related to the issue of clutter. It is argued that clutter creates proliferation of official rights at all levels and causes much confusion amongst consumers. If too many companies have access to the Olympic brand it will make it easier for potential ambushers. In addition, there is variance in the levels of professionalism of those entities associating themselves with the brand. It is suggested that many of the NOCs has little marketing expertise; therefore, they lack the core skills needed to bring that brand alive. In many ways, this lack of knowledge and expertise can do more damage to the brand than good. This can be the problem of a "community" rather than a "company" running a brand. This analysis has helped identify key roles and responsibilities of IOC-NOCs and sponsors in dealing with ambush marketing. A "brand management system" was identified as vital, not only to fight ambush marketing, but for the long term success of the Olympic marketing program and the Olympic brand.

References

  1. Seguin, B. (2003) Olympic Games and Marketing Strategies: Relationships between stakeholders. Unpublished doctorate thesis
  2. International Olympic Committee (June, 2001). Working with Olympic Brand. Sponsor workshop, Athens.
  3. Preuss, H. (2000) Economics of the Olympic Games. Staging the Games 1972-2000. Sydney.

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