Faaez Samadi
Aug 5, 2016

Spotlight on Rio 2016: Brands at the Olympics

Lorna Campbell, Hill+Knowlton's sports marketing and sponsorship director, is on an independent placement at the Rio Olympics as venue media manager for the tennis centre. In this interview, she explains what the role entails, and how brands have come on board with the largest sporting event in the world.

Lorna Campbell
Lorna Campbell

How have Asian brands involved themselves in these Olympic Games?

The Olympic Games has a suite of partners that work with them across the entire Games including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Omega, Samsung, Toyota. Across these Games Asian brands have quite a large presence.

National Olympic Councils (NOCs) have their own sponsors such as kit sponsors, airline sponsors and so on. Of course, some NOCs have more than others and that is quite obvious when you see athletes at the venues, or the set-up of their apartments in the athlete’s village.

There will be a variety of brands sponsoring Team Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, China, Korea and so on. Athletes can use their own specific sports equipment. So for tennis, our athletes can use their own racquets regardless of brand, but they have to wear their country’s tennis kit (even if it’s not made by their own personal sponsor) and the tennis bag will also be team-specific.

The Olympics control guerrilla marketing very closely to ensure the integrity of the Games and honour the agreements they have with the official partners who pay huge sums of money for the privilege. Any company that sponsors an athlete but is not an official NOC or Olympics sponsor cannot benefit from inclusion in the Games from 27 July to 4 August.

This falls under Rule 40—which they must adhere to—and limits the brand from promoting their sponsored athlete by referencing the Games, or using the rings or other Olympic logos. That said, brands are finding creative ways around this rule. For example, ANZ Bank has a ‘Dream Big’ campaign with six Olympic athletes featuring their names and their sports but no Olympics reference.

In terms of communications, how do you go about coordinating all the various stakeholders involved in Olympic tennis?

My role at the Olympics is in the functional area known as Press Operations. It is my job to serve our client group (the media) as best we can at our venue to facilitate and support their work in creating quality news, content and images from the competition.

I manage a team of seven paid staff and 60 volunteers to operate and oversee the venue's media centre, press tribunes, photo positions, press conferences and mixed zone. We handle written press and photographers, while broadcast is handled by the Olympic Broadcast Service (OBS). We share the running of the mixed zone where athlete interviews take place. 

I also act as the venue spokesperson so if any issues arise I will work with the venue management team, the main communications centre for the Games and any other relevant parties to produce and issue the relevant information in the form of a written or verbal statement depending on the situation.

Are you expecting strong Asian interest in Olympic tennis?

Tennis has a huge following globally and in Asia it is certainly healthy. From the strong TV coverage Fox Asia gives to the Grand Slams each year, the development of the International Premier Tennis League across the region, the staging of the WTA Grand Finals in Singapore for another three years, and the hosting of top ATP and WTA events across Asia, the appetite for the sport is clear.

There is still a lack of Asian stars in the game but players such as Kei Nishikori and Li Na have had a huge impact on the Japanese and Chinese tennis markets. I work at the WTA Wuhan Open each year, the hometown of Li Na, and an event that she is now ambassador of. I have seen first-hand the celebrity frenzy and huge crowds that flock to see her, take photos and try and touch her.

I believe it’s only a matter of time until we have another Asian player contesting for trophies in the game. In the meantime I think the tennis fans in Asia still enjoy watching the world's best like Federer, Djokovic and the Williams sisters and with all of these players set to step out on court here in Rio, I am sure there will be a large TV audience in the region tuning in to see who takes the medals this time.

What can Asian brands learn from these Olympics ahead of the future Games being hosted in the region?

There will be a large number of Asian press out in Rio to cover the Games as they look to highlight their own national athletes, but also start to look ahead to 2018, 2020 and 2022 when Asia welcomes the Winter, then Summer, then another Winter Olympics back-to-back.

Asian media, brands and the many people engaged in the organising committees must enjoy, explore and learn from Rio to continue to improve and develop their offering. As media channels change, so does the focus and priorities of brands and the IOC are very aware of both of these and will continue to adapt to meet the needs of them all.

The Games have begun and the Olympic Park, where I am based, is looking really good. I am sure that tonight at the opening ceremony, when the eyes of the world watch Rio, they won't be disappointed. And I believe that our team at the Olympic Tennis Centre will help make the experience for the tennis athletes and media attending the venue, one of the best they've had yet.

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