Watch Out For The Ambush
Official Olympic status at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games equipped most sponsors with the power to outrun their ambush market competitors. However, strong local presence at the Summer Games is what provided sponsors with the competitive edge needed to be remembered among all the sponsorship clutter, according to a study by Performance Research of 1,100 Olympic fans nationwide and 1,017 Olympic on-site attendees.
When on-site attendees at the Atlanta games were asked to recall official Olympic sponsors, those sponsors with a Pavilion in Centennial Olympic Park, such as Coca-Cola (83%), AT&T (58%), Budweiser (41%), and Swatch (26%) received the most attention. [Among the television audience, Coca-Cola (64%), McDonald’s (35%), Nike (22%) Reebok (16%) and Budweiser (14%) were mentioned most often, while AT&T accumulated only 13% recognition as an official Olympic sponsor.]
Samsung, an unofficial Olympic sponsor with an aggressive ambush marketing scheme directed at Panasonic, took squatters rights to a parking lot on the outer limits of Centennial Olympic Park. Panasonic, an official Olympic sponsor, displayed its logo on the CNN tower looming over the Olympic Park, capturing awareness of only 3% of the on-site audience compared to 9% stolen by Samsung.
Official USOC sponsor Reebok (13%) and US Track & Field sponsor Nike (18%) unloaded an arsenal of marketing ammunition aimed at each other on-site at the Olympics. Reebok utilized Olympic-themed billboards throughout the city of Atlanta and specifically in the areas surrounding Centennial Park while, Nike’s marketing success lay in the presence of its “Niketown” which was located on the cusp of Centennial Olympic Park. Nike’s message of being involved with the Olympics successfully reached the television audience as well, as evidenced by the following sponsorship awareness results among television respondents Reebok (16%) and Nike (22%).
When respondents were asked if they had seen any recent Olympic related advertising or promotions, responses were consistent with those mentioned previously for Olympic sponsorship recall. On-site attendees recalled Coca-Cola (63%), AT&T (36%), Budweiser (29%), Nike (16%) and Swatch (15%) as advertisers seen most frequently. Television viewers remembered Coca-Cola (40%), McDonald’s (30%), Nike (10%), Reebok (9%) and Budweiser (6%) as the promotions they were most familiar with.
When respondents were asked to describe their impression of the level of commercialism associated with the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, roughly two-thirds of both on-site attendees (63%) and those interviewed by telephone (60%) stated that the level of commercialism was “acceptable”.
Almost one-fifth (19%) of the those interviewed on-site and 15% of those questioned over the telephone indicated they had a “higher” level of trust in products associated with the Olympics. When asked how they feel about selecting a product because it is involved as an Olympic sponsor, 39% of the on-site attendees and 49% of those interviewed over the telephone stated it “doesn’t affect me one way or another”. However, when asked how they feel about companies spending millions of dollars to be official sponsors of the Olympics, 62% of the on-site attendees and almost one-half (47%) of those interviewed over the phone stated “I’m all for it”.
Performance Research conducted interviews on-site with 1,512 Centennial Olympic Park attendees in Atlanta, Georgia before and during the sixteen days of the Olympic Games (July-August 1996). The margin of error is less than one percent.
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