You don’t have to go too far to see marketing people taking a pop at LOCOG for, essentially, not ‘getting’ modern marketing (or social media, or whatever). And it’s probably true. Whatever you might say about the highly-policed, top-down “exclusion zone” model of corporate sponsorship LOCOG are enforcing, you probably wouldn’t end up using words like “co-creation” or “conversation” or “Cluetrain Manifesto”. A strategy further away from modern marketing’s touchy-feely consumers-first interactivity it would be hard to imagine.
But it struck me this morning that however clunky they seem, there is a secret branding genius to LOCOG itself. It’s a brand, after all, that will disappear after the Olympics and in the meantime can absorb all the frustration and negative emotion like a kind of horrible anti-marketing sponge. Heavy-handedness, cock-ups, pedantry, humourless policing (as well as all the stuff not related to whether someone gets to eat a BK Whopper in the Olympic Zone) - all this can get blamed on LOCOG first, creating an impact cushion before the problems reach the more established brands for whose (arguable) benefit this is being done.
Most of the complaints I’ve seen about sponsorship, for instance, haven’t said “I hate Coke and Adidas”, they’ve attacked LOCOG, then “the sponsors” in general, which is two firewalls on negative emotion BEFORE you hit the actual brands. And LOCOG provides a ready made excuse in the event of wider outcry - the sponsor brands can give the impression of relatively innocent partners ensnared within the unstoppable Olympic bureaucracy. Left to their own devices, of course they’d be all about the spirit of inclusion, etc etc.
Of course sponsor policing isn’t the biggest issue people might have with the Olympics or LOCOG, and likewise it isn’t actually going to spoil many visitors’ days. LOCOG’s efforts - and LOCOG itself - will ultimately be judged on transport fuck-ups and overspends more than its overzealous brand policy. There’s a whole other post to be written about why brand exclusivity ended up as such a crazily huge part of sponsorship, too.
But from a marketing perspective, while LOCOG isn’t going to be inspiring many best practise case studies, it’s a very effective whipping boy. “Protecting the sponsors” may be its mission, and we all assume it’s trying to do that by scaring their rivals off, but its work as a branded lightning rod for criticism fits the bill just as well.