Wednesday, 11 July 2012

When Sponsorship Goes Too Far

This is probably the first reference on this blog to Eddie Izzard but today's story about the banning of chips being sold at the Olympics unless accompanied by other food items reminded me very much of his warning about the "continuum of cool" being very much a double-edged sword. Go too far and you risk looking like a dickhead.

This is precisely what seems to have happened today and let's be honest, this sort of incident has been brewing in the sponsorship industry for some time and it's the kind of story that makes the whole industry look ridiculous.

The reasons for the ban on frites-toutes-seules, one can only assume is to protect McDonald's sponsorship rights, for which they've paid an exorbitant amount of money. It's too early to know whether this "initiative" has been driven by the sponsor or by the rights holder (in this case, LOCOG) in an attempt to curry favour with their fast food partner but either way it's a huge own goal for everyone.

Let's try to remember why we sponsor in the first place. I've blogged extensively about putting the target audience first, yet too often their requirements become the last consideration in the scramble to tick every box in the contract. As an industry we have to get better - and fast - at balancing the need to protect commercial investments and alienating the very people we're trying to engage with. Common sense needs to be applied to ensure that we all know at which point on the "continuum"  a positive experience becomes negative, allowing us to consider the bigger picture and prevent ourselves from looking silly. 

More here on sponsors not quite getting it right (and some who do!)

For those of you who haven't seen it before, here's the Eddie Izzard sketch. I hope it helps to illustrate my point. Even if it doesn't, it's bloody hilarious.


  1. completely agree on this, it's amazing that the main reasons for getting involved in a sponsorship can become the last bits of that sponsorship to get serviced. Companies sponsor an event to deliver a positive, interactive experience, something that traditional advertising really struggles to achieve, despite technological developments and yet that positive interaction can be the last element to be serviced after all the boxes are ticked. a shame that sponsors struggle to balance the emotional responsibilities required with the financial outlay to gain exclusivity

  2. Common sense has now prevailed and vendors will no longer be prevented from selling chips as a standalone snack. The coverage has been immense and it raises questions for sponsors and rights holders alike as to where the line needs to be drawn.

  3. on another note, a friend of mine was processing his accredition with LOCOG this week. He was asked, by email, which date he would be in London to collect his pass. "July 15th", he replied. Another email followed, "is that 2012?"

  4. Interesting article on the BBC website this week (and very similar to one run in the Spectator) - - which really underlines the need for rights holders and sponsors alike to think before they act. It takes a long time to build up good will, especially when public money is involved, but it can disappear overnight.