James Ashton: Sponsorship game's an Olympic winner for global brands

Those sponsors have a lot to answer for. Tango drinkers inside the Olympic Park have to make do with Fanta because of Coca-Cola's association with the Games. A Mars bar that might help the athletes work, rest and play better is off limits because of Cadbury's deal to peddle its chocolate treats within the sporting perimeter.

Fair enough – they've paid generously for the privilege. The only sponsor's rights I think sit awkwardly are those of Visa. Limiting choice in confectionery or soft drinks is one thing, but predetermining how someone should pay for a good or service feels oddly controlling and not the best use of a commercial partnership. Someone, somewhere in Visa's marketing department must have thought it was a good idea at the time.

The more time I've spent in the company of the Olympic partners, the more I realise that there is really nothing like this event for a global brand. Jeff Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, opted to watch last weekend's opening ceremony on television instead of in the stadium as he winced through the pain caused by three broken ribs. But the inconvenience wasn't enough for him to cancel an endless round of meetings with clients present and future.

While GE doesn't sell many power turbines, medical scanners or locomotives in Britain – almost everything it produces here is for export – the Olympics is an ideal opportunity to showcase its wares for the broadest possible audience while the eyes of the world are trained on London.

Does all this behind-the-scenes glad-handing really get in the way of the on-field action? Not at all. The Olympics' corporate family has an important part to play. For example, McDonald's, which had a hand in picking and training the army of volunteers that has even made queuing in the rain a painless experience, deserves plenty of credit.

Comments