It Takes Sponsors to Raise a Village
As the Pan Am Games get underway, much attention will be placed on the vast amount of athletes that will converge upon Toronto. Besides competition and training, an athlete needs a place to call home during the course of their time at the games.
Built for $709 million, the Athletes’ Village will accommodate about 10,000 athletes and coaches for two weeks. Like any other village, shelter is just one aspect of what makes a village. A hospital, a grocery store and a bank are just some of the amenities that are needed make the village operational. To help provide these added amenities, sponsors are looked to for help.
Sponsors having a presence in the Athletes’ Village at multi-sport games have become common practice. Since the 1996 Olympics, McDonalds has had an activation presence inside every Olympic Village. As an incentive to its staff, McDonalds sends top performing employees to work at a pop-up restaurant inside Olympic Villages as a way to activate its longstanding IOC partnership. Further, Procter and Gamble – who own a host of beauty and cosmetic brands - opened up a salon in the 2012 London Olympic Village. Using its Olympic sponsorship, P&G provided 25,000 salon treatments over the course of the Olympic Games.
At the 2015 Pan AM Games, a stable of sponsors will once again be activating inside the Athletes' Village. MKTG breaks down notable brand activity to monitor throughout July.
Loblaws- With thousands of athletes living in one village, keeping them fed will be a large task. That is why in addition to the on-site cafeterias, Loblaws will be creating their own pop-up grocery store in the village. This will allow athletes to shop for their own foods. Loblaws’ Village presence will authenticate its position as a leading grocer with a variety of nutritious meal choices.
Maytag- To ensure that the athletic gear is always clean, official Pan-Am partner Maytag has provided the Athletes’ Village with washing machines. Maytag is promoting their “Performance Counts” tagline during the games and through partnering with 7,500 high-performing athletes, Maytag is able to authentically demonstrate that mission. To illustrate their product’s dependability, Maytag is also providing a running total of every wash done at the Athletes’ Village which is available throughout the Games on their website.
Siemens & McKesson Canada- As with any athletic competition, injury is always a risk. As a result of this, the Village has its own polyclinic designed to treat any medical issue that could arise. All medical imaging equipment such as X-Ray machines, MRIs and ultrasounds are provided by Siemens Canada. For any pharmaceutical needs McKesson Canada has provided volunteer pharmacists and over-the-counter and prescription medications.
CIBC- As lead partner of the 2015 Pan Am Games, CIBC is creating a Welcome Centre in the Athletes’ Village. The Welcome Centre serves the dual-purpose as a coffee shop as well as a fully functional CIBC branch. With CIBC’s heavy presence in Mexico and the Caribbean, CIBC will be able to offer several athletes assistance on their local banking needs. As a long time sponsor of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) CIBC has been known to offer assistance to new immigrants and travelers to the country. Through partnerships with the GTAA and now the Pan Am Games, CIBC has marketed itself towards those who are foreign to Canada.
Benefits of Being a Village Sponsor
Through an onsite presence at the Athletes’ Village, sponsors will have the opportunity to interact with the athletes on a daily basis. As a result of this interaction sponsors can see multiple benefits arise.
Speak to a Global Audience of Athletes- With 10,000 athletes and coaches from all over the North and South America, brands can speak to an international audience. This allows brands like CIBC to reinforce their international presence.
Opportunity for Unique Storytelling- Having exclusive behind the scenes access with the athletes provides an opportunity for brands to share unique content. Brands are able to tell a story that illustrates the validity of their product as the world’s top athletes are using it. This is the strategy that Maytag is taking by running a unique campaign around how often their machines are used and highlighting the performance of their product.
Seeding Your Product- While many of these brands may not have an official relationship with the athletes, they will be interacting with the brands on a daily basis. This can lead to an organic relationship with the athlete, who may vouch for the brand through social media or other channels.
Risks and Consideration
With the many benefits a sponsor can receive from being on-site at the athletes’ village, they must also be aware of the potential drawbacks.
Ambush in Athletes’ Village- At Olympic Games and other highly visible events, it is common for brands who are not official sponsors have to attempt to ambush the event. This is done in hopes of attaining the benefits of sponsorship without paying the proper rights fees. The Athletes’ Village can provide an opportunity for non-sponsors to have a presence, as the athletes are seen out of uniform. During the 2008 Olympics the USA Men’s Basketball team could be seen wearing Beats by Dre headphones as they traveled to and from their games. Beats was not an official Olympic sponsor but still gained high visibility with the highest profile basketball team wearing their product. It is important to take all possible measures to protect a brand from any form of ambush marketing.
Low Reach Environment- The athletes’ village only grants access to the athletes and coaches which means that it is not a consumer facing facility. Brands who have a presence in the Athletes’ Village must do more to activate their sponsorship to ensure it is visible to the general public. Creative and unique activations are needed to bring the sponsorship from the Athletes' Village to the general public.
To make an Athletes’ Village come to life, much more is needed than the village itself. It is important to provide the Village with the proper amenities to ensure the athletes get the best experience. This provides sponsors with an opportunity to become an essential part of the Athletes' Village, through this sponsors can genuinely demonstrate their value.