Nations go to great lengths to secure the world's best sporting events, and it's not just for the fun of it. Sporting events have grown in importance, especially since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games demonstrated for the first time that such magnificent occasions could also generate profits. Since then major events have not proven to be merely financial one-offs, but they have been used as vectors for national and corporate image enhancement. Here are a few examples.
Formula 1 Motor Racing: Power, Passion and Life in the Fast Lane
Bernie Ecclestone, F1's commercial mogul says that, “People are starting to realise that, you know, we're in show business … as well as a sport.” And so it would appear. Perhaps the most glamorous of all sporting events, the Grand Prix races held mostly every two weeks in the season reach a worldwide audience of 300 million per race. As a result, Formula 1 is possibly the greatest money-spinner of any annual sporting activity. Lucky Strike's public relations manager says, “It is pure image.” When you talk marketing, you talk image, and the strategy of the brand wants it to be glamorous.”
Despite the film and rock stars, the world's riches people flying in on their private jets, and the feeling of a regular ‘Hollywood' atmosphere, for some sponsors like Vodafone Group Plc, Credit Suisse Financial Services and others, it is less about glamour and more about building branded businesses. Vodafone's David Haines says, “This whole thing is about building our business, it's not about the glamour.”
Nations take this approach too. To be included in the ‘circuit' is a major achievement and a showcase for the national image. Malaysia constructed a beautiful track at Sepang with no expense spared to get on the list. Rumour has it that Singapore is considering it. China is due to appear soon and even stalwarts like Monaco , where F1 has been held since 1929, are spending hugely to keep their place. Prince Albert , when asked about the contribution of F1 to Monaco in the annual parade of world sporting events on a scale of 1–10, gave it a score of 15! Nations benefit hugely from sporting events.
The 2000 Sydney Olympic Games
Hailed as the best of all Olympic Games (certainly by the International Olympic Committee), Sydney 2000 was a stunning and rewarding experience for all athletes who took part, sponsors who were associated with the event, and also for Australia — the country and the brand.
The Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) worked with the Olympic Games stakeholders in the four preceding years, and a complete strategy was developed that the IOC claimed should be a role model for future host countries. This included looking at:
- Ways to promote the country using a media relations programme that involved visits, employment of new technologies, information distribution, and crisis (issues) management.
- Development of alliances and partnerships to promote the image.
- How to increase the potentially high yield visitor markets, such as meetings, incentives and conventions.
- Trade marketing programmes to capitalise on all business opportunities.
The results were just as spectacular as the Games themselves. Between 1997 and 2004 there were estimated to be 1.6 million ‘Olympic-induced' visitors. During the Games there were 111,000 visitors, 10,300 athletes from 199 countries, 18,000 media people, 5,100 support staff, and 3.7 billion TV viewers worldwide. But the economic benefit accruing to Australia was estimated to be $6.1 billion over the period 1997–2004, and 150,000 new jobs were created. That's a great return!
The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and Expo Shanghai 2010
China won the rights for the 2008 Olympic Games to be held in Beijing , and economists from Goldman Sachs worked out that China will receive an annual increase to its $1,000 billion GDP of 0.3 percent between 1002 and 2008.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup — Japan-Korea
No event has been as inspiring for one nation as the FIFA World Cup that was co-hosted by Korea and Japan in 2002. This was the first time the event had been co-hosted and each country wanted to be at its best.
The timing was good for both countries. Japan had lost its polished image through economic chaos and a ten-year recession, but the World Cup gave it the chance to shine again. For Korea , struggling to compete on the world stage in business, and having a relatively unattractive tourism platform, this was perhaps its only chance to show the world its true nature and passion. And it certainly did take the opportunity.
Whereas previously, some companies had removed the ‘Made in Korea ' slogan from their products to avoid disappointing export figures, now they are proud to do have the words there. And a poll of CEOs from foreign countries taken before the event showed that negative images of Korea were uppermost in their mind, with associations of social disorder, corruption and other items. That changed after the World Cup.
In fact, some surveys have shown the tremendous benefits of the World Cup for the Korean Nation. According to the Korea Times, a survey after the event among foreign buyers showed that 72.5 percent of those polled thought Korea 's image had improved just before and after the advance to the semi-finals, and that 66 percent of people said they intended to do more business with Korea . Another survey, reckoned that the promotional effect of the television coverage, etc. would have a value of $6.5 billion. Indeed, Korea 's sovereign credit rating has also improved.
Korea is still capitalising on the success. It is showcasing its culture though pop music, films and fashion, and the boost to its already strong IT industry has taken it to new heights. Korea now feels and believes it can achieve anything; there is national confidence, harmony and resolve.
So it is Korea that will be the country remembered for the magnificent scenes of cheering red-shirted crowds, orderly street parties in excess of 500,000 people, excitement, jubilation, pride and passion. The World Cup unified the nation in a way that could never have been possible in such a short time by any other means, and accelerated economic development. Germany is hoping that it will have a similar impact on its people and economy this month.
World Cup fever is here again – and so is the money
Germany 2006 is here and there is no doubt that Germany the nation will benefit. Soccer is played in nearly every country of the world, and FIFA forecasts that there will be 32 billion cumulative viewers watching this World Cup. With this in mind, the power brands will once again be there in force in an effort to gain share of eyeballs and wallets. In fact, they will be spending more than US$1 billion on advertising alone, and this excludes sponsorship and other marketing activities.
So global number one sports goods brand Nike is competing against soccer footwear number one Adidas-Salamon, engaging Ronaldinho and co-branding with Google to offer the world's first soccer social network called Joga.com. Samsung has managed to create and secure the British team's official mobile phone as a special edition, MasterCard is the only credit card accepted, and Coke the only cola on sale. The England team has Armani outfits and travel with Louis Vuitton luggage. The impact on sales for brands like these and other sponsors is expected to be massive, and already these companies claim that sales are shooting up.
Lesser known brands from other countries also anticipate benefits to branded sales, such as Univision, the Spanish broadcaster and T-Mobile in the host country. In most of Asia 's countries, smaller brands are also getting in on the act one way or another.
Wherever possible, brands will continue to put the cash in vigorously as the benefits outweigh the costs, but only the strong will survive with sponsorship deals rising for every tournament. Nevertheless sport is, and will continue to be, one of the strongest brand-building elements there is. It's a great way to fast-track your brand equity – if you can afford it!