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A simple solution to Olympic reputation challenges

Posted by Darren Willsher on 18th July 2012

Suffice to say the last week and a bit haven’t been brilliant for PR surrounding the Olympics. Between the complete faff around security staff, massively OTT branding police and overspending, the UK media and its readers are starting to get a bit fed up.

It’s worth pointing out that, although I’m firmly in the camp of people bewildered about all these laws and mistakes, I can’t wait for the actual games to start. It’s just the bureaucrats who are trying their best to spoil things. Anyway, I’m not going to write about all that’s happened, there are many others who are much smarter and funnier than me who have already done that. Instead I want to look at how some of this boils down to some basic PR and marketing errors and how a fix might not actually have been that complicated.


One of the biggest issues that people have is over the branding police, and examples like the Weymouth butcher told to take down an Olympic Ring of sausages in his window hardly help the cause. At the same time of course LOGOC and the IOC want to protect their sponsors, they’ve invested a lot of money and so if a rival tried to hijack the event then they need a suitable recourse. But the problem here is that they’ve only thought about the big names.

So why not find a solution that keeps everyone happy? Why not offer micro sponsorships to local companies?

It’s not perfect, but it could work. For a small fee, companies can apply to be the “Official Weymouth Butcher of the 2012 Olympics”. Just find and replace the town and business and apply country-wide.

So for a few hundred pounds they can mention the games and its symbols in their shop and any marketing. Perhaps for a few hundred quid more they could put their branding out on the local leg of the torch relay. That way it encourages local business to get involved, offers a small business the chance to be affiliated with something pretty special and locally raise their profile. At the same time you’re keeping the big names happy as they’re the ones whose branding appears in the stadiums and on everything else, with micro-sponsorships only applying to the local area.

Finger on the pulse

The other issue with this is that a lot of the issues  are just cases of people taking the rules too literally.

One of the golden rules in modern day PR is spotting any potential issues and clarifying them before a misunderstanding becomes a story. Social media is of course a fantastic tool for both sides of this as it lets you broadcast a clarification quickly and reply to interested journalists. Yet LOCOG really don’t seem to have worked this out. A great example is the story yesterday of how police were told to empty lunches into clear plastic bags to avoid promoting any non-sponsor companies. Turns out it was just someone interpreting the rules too literally, but the story had already gone out and the damage was done even though LOCOG later clarified things.

So there you go, for the next Olympics offer micro sponsorships to local companies and sort out social media.

Easy, right?


Darren Willsher

Darren has been with Wildfire for six years and is one of the driving forces behind the agency’s telecoms and networking portfolio, with experience working on a range of international, multi-channel accounts including CSR, Picochip (now Mindspeed), Real Wireless, The Small Cell Forum, Samsung and Allied Telesis.