Monday, 30 April 2012

Virgin Media bolts ahead with ambush marketing campaign

Are Virgin Media's new Usain Bolt adverts a mere coincidence or Olympic ambush marketing?

On the official London 2012 website, under FAQ's Olympic organisation LOCOG stated that:

"We are obliged to prevent other companies undertaking unauthorised activities that undermine or devalue the exclusive rights we offer our sponsors and licensees."

By looking at these official statements about brand protection and ambush marketing it is clear that LOCOG is out to protect the multi-million pound image created and also to crack down on any potential advertising threats. 

By digging around the news and also official documentation it is evident that LOCOG hasn't currently taken any action against Virgin Media for this set of advertisements, but why is this? 

Virgin Money Giving's office, by HowardLake on Flickr.
It's interesting to look at this situation by focusing of the athletic star Usain Bolt and also many other track athletes as Virgin were the official sponsor of the recent London Marathon that many talented athletes took part in. 

Could it be that Usain Bolt and other track athletes are too important to the Games that LOCOG wouldn't want to challenge this particular marketing campaign purely to protect the athletes and a maintain a positive out look on the Games as a whole? 

In an article featured on generatesponsorship the author stated that:

"In order for Virgin Media to really capitalise on the association depends on what they do with it over and up to the Games.  If they deepen the association (maybe tie up with events, grass roots or other athletes), broaden it (customer engagement, loyalty, PR, experiential stunts, corporate hospitality, employee engagement etc) they have a real opportunity to steal the limelight and benefits of BT’s official Olympic association."

So the question is, is this technically ambush marketing or just well timed endorsements and mere coincidence? 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Types of UK Sponsorship

The UK's sport sponsorship market is valued at around £400 million according to UK Sport.

Types of sponsorship:

There are different forms of sponsorships that athletes can receive, some companies choose to dress athletes head to toe in gear whereas others will provide athletes a place to train during the run up to the Olympics.

(source: Charlee Greenhalgh)

Shirt / Team Sponsorship:
Shirt and team sponsorships are the most common form, and are mainly used in sports such as football. For example Samsung Mobile sponsor Chelsea FC

Squad Sponsorship:
Squad sponsorships are common during the Olympics, examples of this include: Aviva and the UK Athletics Team

Athlete Sponsorship:
Athlete sponsorships are when a brand chooses an athlete to sponsor, which includes providing them with branded kit and training. For example Nike sponsor Wayne Rooney.

Event Sponsorship:
Event sponsorship is used when events such as football matches are sponsored by companies, for example the
Barclays Premiership.

Venue / Stadium Sponsorship:
Venue and Stadium sponsorship is when specific buildings are sponsored by companies, and example of this is the
O2 Arena

Broadcast Sponsorship:
Broadcast sponsorship is when sponsors cover an event that is broadcast on media platforms. For example Heineken sponsor
ITV's Rugby World Cup coverage

Small Athlete Sponsorship Deal:
Small athlete sponsorships deals tend to help athletes on a smaller scale compared to athlete sponsorships. Deals can sometimes include places to train or kit to help them. For example a small sponsorship deal could be a hockey player receiving four free sticks a year.  

Monday, 23 April 2012

What lengths will Olympic athletes go to to be sponsored?

With the Olympic budget spiralling out of control the sponsorship system continues to fail struggling athletes in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games. 

Through this lack of support athletes are turning to drastic ways to compete equally with other athletes and obtain sponsors. The example of Olympic runner James Ellington highlights the real struggle within the athletic community and the failure of the sponsorship system.

Olympic sponsorship is a form of survival for most athletes, especially those who compete in non-paying events such as the Olympic Games. Sponsorship can cover the cost of living and training for amateur athletes in several different forms including private, corporate, and team ownership.

According to 
“Olympic sponsorships contribute more than 40% of Olympic income” and with the Olympics fast approaching sponsorship deals for athletes are becoming more sought after. One athlete who took his search for an Olympic sponsor to the next level is UK Olympic runner James Ellington who after struggling to find a sponsor put himself on Ebay in a last ditch attempt to secure a sponsorship deal.

Although Ellington managed to secure a place on team GB without any kind of kit endorsements or sponsorship he still was desperate for commercial sponsorship so he could be able to compete to his best potential.  Ellington revealed in a recent BBC interview (see the hyperlink for a link to their article and a video of his televised interview)

In this interview Ellington discusses how Olympic funding doesn’t filter down, in some cases, where it’s needed most, leaving talented athletes struggling to compete but supports “Pin athletes”.  It is transparent that the budget favours the more recognisable athletes such as Usain Bolt and also the Games’ reputation e.g. the opening ceremony.

But why is this? Ellington’s story highlights where the current Olympic sponsorship system and budget fails to support individual athletes. In a recent report the Daily Mail breaks down elements of the Olympic budget and states that the budget is currently 10 times what was previously predicted in 2005. The report states that 

"The predicted cost of the games when London won the bid in 2005 was £2.37billion. That figure has now spiralled to more than £12billion and could reach as much as £24billion, the Sky Sports investigation claims...This figure includes the build of the venues and the £600million police and security budget. The government has just allocated an extra £41million (with a £7million contingency) from this budget to LOCOG to pay for the Opening Ceremony, which is set to cost £81million total"

Reading through this article you can see that a lot of money has been allocated to the Olympic legacy, stadiums and legalities but there is no mention of support for the athletes themselves or any sponsorship allocations.

It is becoming increasingly clearer that athletes have to take sponsorship matters into their own hands and attempt to get their own sponsorship deals. With all the previous gold medal winners and recognisable faces getting the easy ride athletes who have previously struggled with injury or are less well known are getting left at the side lines. Ellington managed to secure a sponsorship deal with a shaving company but will all struggling athletes have to take such extreme measures, and should they have to? Shouldn’t the Olympic budget, organisations such as LOCOG and sponsorship system prioritise our athletes? 

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Interview with Sponsored Boxer Joe 'Marvelous' McAllister

‘Having a sponsor sends out a message that you’re a worthy boxer, it also sends out a big message to your opponent and having that little psychological edge is exactly what your looking for before a fight’. Joe ‘Marvelous’ McAllister an 18 year old, sponsored boxer from Telford Shropshire. Joe talks in depth about what it takes to attain sponsorship in one of the most brutal sports in the world.

With an impressive amateur record of 11-1-0 Joe briefs on how he was first introduced to world of boxing.
 ‘When I was young my Dad used to have a punch bag in the back garden. I often saw him hitting the bag and I remember always wanting to join in. For years I wasn’t allowed, because my Mom insisted. She never wanted me to get involved in boxing. But eventually after much persuasion she finally let me come along to Donnington Boxing Club’.

Joe explains that the sport of boxing is often given bad publicity.
‘Boxing’s always been a sport which is stereotyped as being two thugs getting in a ring with each other and trying to hurt one another. When the truth is they don’t see the hard work, dedication and discipline the sport takes. You occasionally get professional boxers who let the sport down and give it a bad name like recently David Chasora. But that’s not what the majority of boxer are like, when boxing was first came about it was considered a gentleman sport’.
With a light hearted humor in his voice he says. ‘I don’t think its quite like that anymore but were certainly not the trouble making thugs were interpreted to be!’

A local plumbing company is the proud sponsors of the ambitious young boxer, and Joe doesn’t hesitate to discuss his thoughts on sponsors within his sport.
‘Sponsors play a major contribution in boxing, having a sponsor sends out a message out that you’re a worthy boxer, it also sends out a big message to your opponent and having that little psychological edge is exactly what your looking for before a fight’.  He pauses,  ‘Special sponsorship events take place where each boxing club will select boxers to compete against each other with sole aim of getting sponsored’
Joe expands by saying.
 ‘These events are huge for an amateur boxer, it’s a great privilege to have a sponsor and fighters really train hard in the lead up to them. There also held in nice places’. Bursting into laughter he says, ‘Which makes a change let me tell you!’

Continuing on the theme of sponsors Joe enlightens the benefits involved of having a sponsor.
‘The sponsors also pay for our individual clothes and equipment like gum shields, gloves, towels, hand wraps, boots, gowns and any other bits and pieces we need, as well as the membership to the club. I think its quite well known that most kids who go in to boxing clubs aren’t that rich. So when it comes to the big events they struggle to get the money to buy all the little extras you need like vest, gum shields, headguards etc.’
Joe speaks of some of the harsher realities some boxers face ‘There are people in this club that have sold their bikes to buy gloves and pay for their membership because their parents cant afford it’. He openly says, ‘Its not nice to see what great champions have done it in the past. Manny Pacquiao used to live on the streets selling donuts to people in traffic jams, now his the best boxer in the world, so it can all be worth it!’

Joe’s reaction was instantaneous to answer one of the biggest questions in boxing at the moment Pacquaio or Mayweather? ‘ Pacquaio definitely ! Pacquaio has more power and lightening fast hands as well as the quickest feet in the game. Mayweather been ducking him for ages, he’s only trying to wait until his slowed down!’

Friday, 20 April 2012

Olympic Sponsorship Controversy/Fighting Obesity

The BBC's article on, ‘Doctors unite to combat obesity’, discuses sponsorship of the Olympics by fast food firms as sending "the wrong message". Companies such as Cola – Cola and Mc Donald’s sponsoring the Olympics have caused controversy among society, and is also evident among the online community of bloggers who commented on the BBC’s article.  

Bloggers discussed dealing with weight issues, (Link to Blog comment) (Link To Blog Comment), and ways to prevent obesity within society (Link to blog comment), and some bloggers felt that the Olympics were sending mixed messages in how to lead a healthy life style by been linked to fast food chains such as Mac Donald’s and coca- cola.

Sponsorship Debate between the Department of Health and fast food Sponsors: 

'The Department of Health said it was taking action to combat obesity.
A spokesman for the campaign, Prof Terence Stephenson, said the government's current strategy of "partnering" food firms in order to tackle obesity "might be seen as counter-intuitive".

Prof Stephenson said allowing companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds to sponsor the London 2012 Olympics "sends the wrong message."
"They clearly wouldn't be spending the money if they didn't benefit from being associated with successful athletes," he said.

A McDonald's spokesperson said the Olympics was "the biggest catering operation in the world," adding: "Sponsorship is essential to the successful staging of the Olympics."'
For the full article on the BBC's website, Click here.

What are your views about fast food firms sponsoring the Olympics? Comment below or Tweet us

Fighting Obesity  

With this in mind, to help the community ‘fight obesity I have found various useful websites, tools and videos online on how to keep fit, stay healthy and guidelines to eating fast foods and diets.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Interview with unsponsored 400m runner athlete

'People who have sponsors are at an advantage because they have support from other people. That extra backing can sometimes be the edge in such a competitive sport, where the line of failure and success are so slim’. Brandon Timmins, an 19 year old 400m runner, part of Shrewsbury athletics club, discusses the 'Highs' and 'Lows' of been an athlete.

Brandon explains how he has been involved in athletics since a young age, 'I’m 19 years old now, and I’ve been competing in athletics since the age of 5. Like so many kids, I always looked up to my older brother who inspired me into the world of athletics.' He jokingly says. ‘At about the age of nine it was quite evident that I was never going to be a power athlete, my strengths always lied in the running side of things. As a kid my parent were always telling me to slow down !’ 

Brandon talks about how he came to choosing the 400m as his specialist event.
‘Its defiantly one of the hardest events to train for – I can tell you that from experience’. He raises both eye brows. ‘I kind of fell into it – the longer distance races never really suited me and the quicker sprints like the 100 and 200m I was never quite fast enough for’.  Brandon then says, 'A lot of the events are favoured by genetics. And shier hard work won’t always be the key to success, so for me lied the 400m and 800m events at which I could run in very good times’.

Brandon has run some very impressive times in the 400m and has placed very high in the larger events around the country, however at this moment in time he has yet to find a sponsor. Brandon had a insight as to why this may be. ‘In most of the running events you find that the athlete’s who get sponsored are the ones who have the best times and who regularly place high in the big county competitions’.

It is often reported that unsponsored athlete’s struggle to fund themselves whilst having to train so rigorously. He continues to say, ‘ I’m quite fortunate in that the 400m isn’t the most expensive sport to fund. We naturally have to have days off in order to recover our body’. He expands, ‘ During this time I work in a local coffee shop which pays for all my gear as well as the membership to the club and a gym’.

Brandon expresses his opinion on the topic of sponsorships saying. ‘I think they are very beneficial for the athletes that have them. They certainly help financially in paying for things such as gym memberships, travel, equipment and attire’. 

He openly states,  
‘I feel people who have sponsors are at an advantage because they have support from other people. And that extra backing can sometimes be the edge in such a competitive sport, where the line of failure and success are so slim’.

What’s next? Following the interview with Brandon, I will be meeting up with a sponsored athlete for their views on sponsorship, and an insight into the process of sponsorship.

Are you an unsponsored or sponsored athlete? Tweet us or comment below.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Olympic Athlete Sponsors

With the Olympics just around the corner it is important to look at athletes and their sponsors. It is especially important within this investigation to look at whether winning athletes gain higher sponsors compared to those who have just earned their place in this years games.

UK Athletics have become a popular sponsor among both new and experienced athletes. They work as part of the Power of 10 which is a program set up to help selected track and field athletes improve their performance for the London 2012 Olympics. Athletes in the program are then rewarded with gifts which will aid their performance from the group of companies that sponsor the Power of 10.

which helps athletes to improve their performance ready for the Olympics.

I have also found that while top athletes do secure major sponsors in the games newcomers have also managed to secure sponsorships with major companies such as Nike, Lucozade and Adidas.

A new lead from this could be to look at what major sponsors look for in athletes and whether their performance in previous games helps influence the decision.