The PeRiodic Table – the Science of Sponsorship at Rio 2016

Getting an Olympic Games right is rare alchemy. The Road to Rio has been long and hard for athletes, organisers and sponsors alike. In the seven years since it won the bid to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the country has experienced more than its fair share of drama: rioting around #changebrazil, a FIFA World Cup meltdown against Germany, the spectre of political corruption and the tragic emergence of Zika.Is the country really ready for the Games? Can the infrastructure hold up? Will the doping scandal forever tarnish Rio’s moment in the sun?

These will all have been questions and concerns for the sponsors of Rio 2016 – the 59 different brands that make up the four partnership tiers of the Games represent a unique ecosystem that has helped ROCOG meet its $570m target for sponsorship revenue and played a key role in making Rio a reality.

While sponsorship is never an exact science, Synergy’s PeRiodic Table is an interactive graphic that allows you to explore a little more about each of the brands that are part of the Games. From sponsorship category to Twitter following, our interactive infographic – designed to be sorted and filtered as you see fit – provides the chance to discover some of the stories hidden beneath the surface of Rio 2016’s sponsorship landscape. Click here for the full table.

Heritage Matters: whilst the entire list of brands is typically sorted in alphabetical order, it’s notable that Coca-Cola sits before either Atos or Bridgestone in the TOP sponsor hierarchy. This is a quirk of Coke’s gift of rights: they will always be the first-mentioned brand in the IOC’s sponsorship recognition programme, acknowledging a relationship stretching back to 1928.

If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It: at time of publishing this, only 11 of the 46 brands with an active Twitter handle featured Rio 2016 marques on their profile. A potential missed opportunity for lager brand Skol, whose Twitter presence has perhaps the most overt Olympic theme, but lacks any actual recognition of its officialdom.

Missing The Tweet Spot: although it’s true that not every brand has to have a Twitter footprint, it’s interesting to note the official sponsors without a social presence, or those that have failed to build one ahead of the Games. For international brands with only a local relationship (anyone outside the TOP sponsor tier) like Nike, Nissan or Airbnb, the use of Brazil-focused feeds is also worth noting. While likely to be down to the IOC’s commercial restrictions around the use of social media, it will be interesting to see how many of the global Twitter handles end up giving a RT to their local market counterparts.

Toyota Revs Up For Tokyo: although the brand signed up as one of the IOC’s new TOP sponsors back in 2015, Nissan were already a Tier 1 sponsor of Rio 2016. This means Toyota can only talk about Rio in Japan (something Nissan cannot officially do), before turning their global attention to Tokyo 2020 following the conclusion of the current Games.

Necessity Is The Mother Of Investment: the outbreak of Zika not only created valid concern amongst athletes and spectators, but also led to the signing of OFF! – the Games first ever insect repellent partner. It probably depends on your level of cynicism whether you think this was to ensure a consistent quality control in terms of the level of safety provided to participants and attendees, or simply to head off commercial concerns around ambush of the category by unofficial brands.

Have a play with the various filters and sorting methods at the top of the screen, and see what stories you can unearth within the PeRiodic Table.

Success & Scandal: The Inspiring Early History Of Women’s Football

Goodison Park was packed to the rafters as 53,000 fans watched Alice Kell – captain of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies – score a hat trick in her team’s 4-0 win over St Helens Ladies. By all accounts, the 14,000 supporters turned away from the stadium missed a great game of football. The day was Boxing Day; the year, 1920.For the best part of a century this game stood as the record attendance for the women’s game. It wasn’t till London 2012 when 70,584 saw England beat Brazil 1-0 that this dusty record was broken. In recent years – and especially in the wake of the England’s heroics at the 2015 World Cup – women’s football has been experiencing an extraordinary rise in popularity. England’s semi-final against Japan peaked at 2.4m viewers on BBC 1 and Round 7 of The FA WSL in July 2015 experienced record crowds. Moreover, the Women’s FA Cup – boosted by SSE’s historic title sponsorship – drew 30,000 to Wembley.A challenge for the game’s champions and sponsors is to consolidate and grow this fanbase ahead of the European Championships in 2017.

Given compelling stories celebrating brands’ pasts are often the backbone to strong campaigns, (see Johnnie Walker and Lloyds), perhaps the same strategy could be applied to women’s football, given its fascinating and tumultuous history…

In 1894, feminist Nettie Honeyball founded an unprecedented entity – the British Ladies Football Club – with the aim, she said, of “proving to the world that women are not the ornamental and useless creatures men have pictured”. It was a radical idea and led to the first official recorded game of football between two women’s teams. This took place in 1895 when a collection of players from North London took on their Southern counterparts.

A “huge throng of ten thousand” travelled to Crouch End to witness the spectacle. There followed a series of games, raising money for charity, around the country. Some reporters were sneering, “the laughter was easy, and the amusement was rather coarse” (Jarrow Express); whilst others were supportive, “I don’t think the lady footballer is to be snuffed out by a number of leading articles written by old men” (The Sporting Man). However, by the time the year was over, crowds – apparently blasé to the novelty – had petered out and the women’s game disappeared.

Twenty years later, with World War I raging on the Western Front, The FA suspended the Football League as players joined the ranks in the trenches. Meanwhile, 900,000 women were sent to work in munitions factories, where kicking a ball around at lunch breaks was a welcome respite from their dangerous job. From these kick-abouts, ‘Munitionette’ teams from various Northern factories were formed.

The most famous and successful of these was from Dick, Kerr’s & Co. in Preston. The team’s first match drew a crowd of 10,000 but this success was unlike the short-lived successes of 1895. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies went on to play numerous matches, raising £70,000 (£14m in today’s money) for charities supporting ex-servicemen and other causes. True, there were mutterings of the game’s unsuitability for women but the crowds continued to pour in even after the war ended – 35,000, for instance, saw Alice Kell’s team play Newcastle United Ladies at St James’ Park in 1919.

Alongside Alice Kell, Lily Parr was Dick, Kerr’s Ladies star player. One local newspaper wrote that there was “probably no greater football prodigy in the whole country” and it is said her shot was so hard it once broke the arm of a professional male goalkeeper. Parr’s 31 year playing career saw her score over 1,000 goals, 34 in her first season in 1920… not bad for a 14-year-old.

1920-21 represented the peak of Dick, Kerr’s success. In 1920 they represented England, beating the French women’s team on both sides of the Channel and finished the year at Goodison Park in front of 53,000 fans (by comparison 50,018 attended the men’s FA Cup Final that year). Meanwhile, 1921 was packed with 67 fixtures in front of a cumulative audience of 900,000. Yet, 1921 was also the year of the second downfall of the women’s game, courtesy of a directive from The FA banning female teams from all FA affiliated stadiums and grounds.

The perennial complaint against women’s football – and the excuse used by The FA – was that it was harmful to female health. In 1895 the British Medical Journal had declared “We can in no way sanction the reckless exposure to violence, of organs which the common experience of women had led them in every way to protect.” Now in the ’20s, Harley Street’s Dr Mary Scharlieb wrote, “I consider it a most unsuitable game, too much for a women’s physical frame”.

However, one might argue that these medical opinions were merely a pseudo-justification for The FA’s real fear that women’s football represented an uncomfortable shift in society’s hierarchy. Now the war was over, here you had female teams – “in knickers [shorts] so scanty as would be frowned upon” – attracting more fans than many men’s games being played on the same day.

What’s more, the women’s football matches, which had raised thousands for charity, were now supporting the struggling families of miners during the 1921 Miners Lock Out – a politically charged dispute where miners were had been banned from working in the coalfields, having refused significant wage reductions.It was a lethal combination: Women flouting the role dictated to them by social convention to play a scandalous sport that drew bigger audiences than their male counterparts, whilst raising funds in support of anti-establishment trade unions.

The FA’s ban effectively squeezed the sport into obscurity. Whilst teams such as Dick, Kerr’s continued to play, their banishment to nondescript playing fields meant that never again would they be cheered on by thousands in Goodison Park or St James’s. Years in the wilderness followed until the FA ban was finally lifted half a century later, allowing the game to begin its slow recovery. Although that’s another story for another time…

Back in 2016, with the women’s game reaching the popularity levels of the 1920s, the challenge is to maintain its upward trajectory ahead of, and beyond, forthcoming major Tournaments. The stories, characters and controversy from women’s football’s intriguing past are potentially a real starting point from which to catalyse powerful campaigns around the sport.

Shelley Alexander, ‘Trail-Blazers who Pioneered Women’s Football’ (BBC)
John Simkin, ‘British Ladies Football Club’ (Spartacus Educational)
John Simkin, ‘History of Women’s Football’ (Spartacus Educational)
‘The History of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge’ (The Guardian)
‘WW1: Why was women’s football banned in 1921?’ (BBC)

At 1000 Days To Go to Rio 2016, How Does Rio’s Sponsorship Programme Compare With London 2012?

With 1,000 days to go to Rio 2016 just gone, it’s interesting to compare the status of Rio’s domestic sponsorship programme with London 2012′s at the same point back in 2009.

What our research shows is, despite London 2012 being in the market at the nadir of the UK recession, and Rio being expected when it was awarded the Games to successfully leverage Brazil’s booming economy, at this stage Rio is a long way behind London in almost every respect.









This should come as no surprise. We’ve commented previously about how, after a stunning start in early 2011 with huge finance and telco category deals, Rio’s sponsorship sales programme has gradually stalled along with the Brazilian economy, and now faces big challenges given the ongoing protests, persistently negative PR about the Rio 2016 operation, Brazil’s economy, and Brazil’s ability to stage major – and even minor – events.


Last week, in an interview with AP, Rio’s Chief Commercial Officer Renato Ciuchini revealed that the organisation was now targeting $1.3-$1.5 billion in domestic sponsorship revenue, and that $650m (£400m) has been raised to date.

By comparison, with 1,000 days to go to London 2012, we estimate that LOCOG had raised $894m (£552m) of its final total of $1.2 billion (£739m).

In other words, London had raised 75% of its final total, but Rio has raised only 50% of its minimum target and only 43% of its stretch target.

Deal Volume and Value

Rio is also well behind London in deal volume.

With 1,000 days to go London 2012 had closed 23 deals in 23 categories, whereas Rio has closed 10 deals in 8 categories (the Bradesco sponsorship covers both banking and insurance, and the telco category sponsorship was acquired by a joint bid by Embratel and Claro).

Conversely, Rio’s average category deal value, at $65m, is much higher than London’s $38.8m.

But on this point, Rio seems to be confident. Back in August, it slipped out an announcement that it had now sold 50% of its sponsorship packages, suggesting that it envisages doing only another ten deals.

If it sticks to this, Rio will have to average $85m for each deal to reach its stretch target of $1.5 billion, and $65m – its current average – to reach its minimum target.

As its current average is skewed by the huge Bradesco and Embratel-Claro deals, together worth $500m, the jury is very much out as to whether Rio can sustain this given the market challenges it now faces.


Rio also lags behind London in all three of the tiers that modern Games Committees use to market their domestic sponsorships.

At the same point in the London 2012 cycle, LOCOG had sold and announced six of its seven Tier 1 sponsorships (BMW was announced a month later, in late November 2009) and six of its seven Tier 2 sponsorships (the seventh, Arcelor Mittal, was announced in March 2010).

In comparison, Rio has three in Tier 1 (finance, telco and automotive) and four in Tier 2 (professional services, beer, packaged foods and dairy products).

But what’s most striking is that whereas LOCOG had eleven Tier 3 deals in place with 1,000 days to go, Rio has only one, with Nike (although oddly, that deal has yet to be officially announced – the Nike logo just appeared on the partners section of the Rio 2016 website).


I’ve written before about how important value in kind (VIK) is to the Olympic sponsorship model and to Games budgets.

Because the Games are the world’s biggest and most complex peacetime operation, it takes far more to deliver them than pure cash. The Olympic sponsorship model is like a giant joint venture, with both the IOC and the local organising committee outsourcing critical products and services from sponsors, without which the Games couldn’t happen – and that’s why the majority of Games sponsorship in the modern era is delivered in the form of VIK.

As such, all of Rio’s sponsorships to date will have included an element of VIK – some (Embratel-Claro, Nissan, Ernst & Young, Nike) more than others.

But the fact that Rio 2016 has done so few deals at this stage compared to London 2012, particularly at the Tier 3 level which is always heavily VIK-based, means that right now it is having to do two things with important budget, cashflow and delivery implications.

Rio 2016 must be paying cash for vital products and services which Games committees normally use VIK deals to finance, which means that its cashflow and overall budget must be incredibly strained. And it must also have had to delay sourcing other key products and services, with inevitable consequences for its operations and deadlines.


Let me be really clear that, for certain types of business situations, and certain brand categories, Rio 2016 has enormous potential for brands in Brazil.

But right now, Rio 2016 is a sponsorship price-taker rather than price-setter in Brazil. Brands have three very good reasons to be wary about investing, and to exert downward pressure on price.

1. The spectre of a Government bailout looms over Rio’s budget even if it reaches its stretch sponsorship target, as a Rio 2016 spokesman recently admitted to AP. If that happens, there’s little doubt that would see the anti-FIFA protests become anti-Rio 2016 protests, which would be a disaster for the IOC, the Games, and of course the Games’ sponsors.

For an in-depth look at the marketing and sponsorship implications of the anti-FIFA protests, our Brazil team’s blog from June this year is a must-read and includes that point.

2. The IOC’s Gerhard Heiberg had this to say in the same AP piece on Rio 2016:

“I know that some sponsors are waiting to see how things are going to be at the World Cup. Will it be a success? Will it be chaotic? If people feel things are going to be very good for the games, it’s easier to get the sponsors. If people feel things are not going to be 100 percent, they will hold back on the Olympics. First they want to see what’s going to happen with the World Cup.”

Absolutely spot-on – and brave of Mr Heiberg to say so. We are aware of a wide range of name brands in Brazil, who would otherwise be primed to become Rio 2016 sponsors, who are adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude until after the World Cup.

3. The potential value of Rio 2016 to a brand is inexorably dropping. There’s already less than three years to go until the Rio Games, and every day that passes reduces the potential value to a brand – especially when you consider that, given the Brazilian consumers’ overwhelming preference for football and therefore the World Cup, the first half of 2014 is arguably, for an Olympic sponsor in Brazil, a write-off.


The Missing Formula

Analysis of industry data suggests that the F1 ecosystem raises over £1b per year from sponsorship. This includes Team Sponsors and Suppliers (ranging from £100m for the big boys to £20m for the smaller teams), F1 Partners (around £25m per year in cash or Value in Kind from each of the 6 global partners) and Race Sponsorship (around £10m for each of the races with title sponsors plus trackside advertising).

To put that into context, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games raised around the same amount (£750m from domestic sponsors plus around £250m contribution from the IOC for TOP partners) – but that was for a 4-year cycle.

So here’s a question: Given how much is spent on it from some of the world's leading brands, why is F1 Sponsorship not at the leading edge of sponsorship thinking and activation?

It’s fair to say that F1 is ahead of the game in virtually everything else it does. So surely F1 Sponsors should be cleaning up at the major sponsorship industry awards.  In fact, over the past 5 years, an F1 sponsorship has won only once out of a possible 47 SIA awards (Vodafone’s Best Sponsorship of a Team or Individual in 2009). Case studies from F1 should be inspiring sponsors in other sports.  Here at Synergy, we should regularly be showcasing examples from F1 in the ‘What We Love’ section of Synopsis. But this just isn't the case – at least not to the extent that one would expect.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great pieces of activation in F1 (I’ll point out some of them later), but as a whole, F1 sponsorship is pretty uninspiring.

Having run the Reuters sponsorship of WilliamsF1 from 2000 - 2003 (yes - I agree - it was nowhere near 'award-winning'!), I thought I would have a go at answering that question based on my own personal experiences.

1. Most Formula One sponsorships are B2B

Reuters primarily used F1 for B2B relationship building. A quick scan of F1 sponsors shows that over 40% have significant B2B businesses. There is little better than F1 if you have a relatively small number of high-value, global customers who you reach through targeted sales and marketing programmes.  Travelling around the world to all the key markets, Formula One and Paddock Club™ are the absolute gold standard of corporate hospitality. With this being the focus of the brands' activation programme, it is little wonder that it remains unseen by the mass audience, award panels and the Synopsis editors.

The activation challenge for the B2B partners, however, is to create the most compelling brand stories and event experiences to attract their audience.  Because the fact is, especially in the small markets, most of the B2B sponsors are going after a very similar audience, in some cases exactly the same people.

2. There is too much focus on brand exposure and logos on cars and not enough on activation

Whenever brand exposure is such a critical part of the sponsorship package, it is easy to rely too heavily on it at the expense of all the other things you can do with the sponsorship. I absolutely hate the “media value” figures that are at the heart of so many F1 sponsorships.  However, it is easy to measure and as long as the media value is bigger than the cost of the sponsorship, brands can be tempted to think “job done”. In comparison, Olympic sponsors can't rely on any media value to justify their sponsorship.  That's why they have to work much harder and be far more creative with their activation.

A knock-on effect of this over-emphasis on media value is the fact that it can lead to an under-investment in activation.  Typically, the rights fee is so high (because brands are paying for the exposure) that there isn’t enough left over for activation. I’m not a big believer in any rule-of-thumb ratios, but the proportion of rights fee to activation spend when I was at Reuters is definitely not going to make it into any how-to textbooks. I suspect this isn't unusual for F1 sponsors up and down the Paddock

3. The calendar gives you no time to plan and develop great campaigns

The F1 season is relentless. The first race is in early March and the last race is in late November. In between is a never-ending cycle of travelling and managing the day-to-day execution of race weekends. Everyone goes on holiday during the 4-week summer break and at the end of the season, which then leads into Christmas. Trust me, if you want a year to fly past, get a job in F1.

Which basically just leaves January and February to do any sort of campaign development. But even those months tend to be dominated by tactical planning for the season ahead. There just isn't the time to think about a season-long campaign or a brilliant piece of activation.

Another challenge is the global scale required by an activation campaign. Japan, Abu Dhabi, Britain, the US and Brazil have very little in common with each other from a marketing perspective.  So as an F1 sponsor you are sort of in limbo between creating and delivering a global campaign that doesn't quite work in loads of markets and developing local campaigns which feel a bit 'small' and short term.

4. The F1 community is too closed

There are some great people who work in F1.  However, it needs more ‘churn’.

For example, when I needed a sponsorship agency, everyone I invited to pitch was effectively a specialist F1 agency. I understand why most sponsors do that, but it leads to a form of 'groupthink' where new ideas are thrown out in favour of "what we did last year" or "what we do with our other clients".

This happens up and down the paddock. If an F1 team needs a new Account Manager, they are likely to hire someone from one of the other teams. If a brand needs an F1 Sponsorship Director, they are likely to hire someone who has done a similar job at another sponsor. If an F1 agency hires a new Account Director, they typically hire someone who already has F1 experience.

The danger of this 'closed' community is that it loses the fresh influences and perspectives that drive creativity.

I know it’s tough (I’ve been there myself) but I think F1 sponsors need to be braver and set the bar higher for their activation campaigns. The benchmark should not be: “we want to create the best F1 sponsorship campaign”, but rather “we want to create the best sponsorship campaign”. And to do that, I think that it is critical for sponsors to look for inspiration outside the very small world of F1.

The point of this blog is not to say that there are no good F1 activations - because clearly there are some great examples.

My point is simply that given the number of world-class brands who are sponsors in F1, the amount that they invest and the possibilities of F1 as a platform, there should be far more ground-breaking activation programmes than there are.

Some of our Favourite F1 Activation Case Studies:

Johnnie Walker - Step Inside the Circuit Series

Johnnie Walker extended this campaign with some experiential activity in Travel Retail environments but at its core was some great behind-the-scenes content, from Monte Carlo (below), IndiaSingapore and other races


One car, no team:


London Grand Prix:

The Silverstone Chase

Hugo Boss - Dress Me for the Finale

Using a special online configurator, consumers in each country could create bespoke designs of the drivers’ race suits. The drivers wore the designs during qualifying for each race, while the best two designs as voted by the audience were worn on the Sunday during the Brazilian Grand Prix. Boss also did a good job of connecting this activation to their social media and retail channels:

Red Bull - Faces for CharityIn exchange for a donation to charity (which Red Bull matched), consumers could upload a photo which was then put on the car for the British Grand Prix.

Vodafone -  Drive to the Big League

Vodafone introduced this initiative at the British Grand Prix in 2010 which offered one of their small business customers the chance to put their logo on the car for the British Grand Prix.  Vodafone have taken it to a whole new level in India now, where they have combined it with a Dragons Den style TV programme to select the winner – watch it – it’s brilliant!!!

See - it is possible - more of that please!!!

The Endorsement Olympics: Brands’ London 2012 GB Athlete Strategies Analysed (INFOGRAPHIC)

With Team GB's first gold medals won, national attention is naturally focused on GB's Olympians. So this seems like the perfect time to reveal our analysis of brands' GB athlete endorsement strategies, and to unveil our latest Synergy infographic - Synfographic - to the purpose.

We've looked at a group of 45 brands using current and former Olympians and Paralympians. The group comprises:

- Global and domestic sponsors of London 2012

- Major GB sport sponsors which aren't London 2012 sponsors

- Other non-sponsor brands leveraging athletes in their marcomms

This revealed a total of 404 individual agreements and, if taking into consideration athletes such as Jessica Ennis or Louis Smith who have multiple sponsorship deals, endorsement of 267 unique individuals.

It is worth noting that whilst we have factored in Lloyds TSB’s support of athletes across GB via the organisation’s Local Heroes programme, the figure of 404 agreements does not take these numbers into account. Similarly, neither do the figures quoted incorporate Visa’s sponsorship of the Team 2012 programme. Both these programmes are based on the brands creating or sponsoring group athlete support systems, whereas we wanted to analyse brands' strategies for individual endorsements - brands that have taken on the challenge (and the risks) onus of selecting, contracting and activating individuals, many several years ago, as part of their London 2012 campaigns.

Risk versus reward: over half of the endorsed athletes have qualified for Team GB and Paralympics GB.

Whilst you may not be surprised at the dominance of athletics amongst endorsees, the Synfographic does demonstrate that there’s a healthy range of sports sitting beyond the usual suspects, reflecting the diversity of the Olympics and Paralympics.

Men's deals outnumber women's by 234 to 170, but the two most popular individuals for sponsors are both women -  Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Ennis. The two most popular men? Louis Smith and Sir Chris Hoy.

Looking at the brands, it's striking that the seven Tier 1 London 2012 partners are the heaviest endorsers, with 244 agreements in total, an average of 30 per partner, massively outnumbering any other sponsorship tier. Interestingly, non-sponsor brands are the next biggest endorsers, with 91 deals in total, despite the IOC Charter's Rule 40 restricting leverage of these individuals during Games-time, which has recently been challenged by several US athletes.

It's also good to see that there are deals with 52 Paralympians - compared with 215 with Olympians - reflecting both brands' support for the Paralympics and to integrate Paralympians into their London 2012 activity.

One of the major successes in terms of athlete selection has been BMW’s London 2012 Performance Team*. This is a programme that began with the BMW UK's central sponsorship of 27 athletes, both past and present, and evolved into a dealer-by-dealer support system for local London 2012 hopefuls. The result: BMW and MINI athletes now form 11% of the entirety of Team GB.

The main questions now are which sponsor has backed the most winners, and who'll be the post-Games winners in the endorsement stakes. After yesterday's heroics and today's headlines, Bradley Wiggins is sure to be at the forefront. Let's hope that Team GB and Paralympics GB produce many more over the next month or so.

* Full disclosure: Synergy is BMW UK's London 2012 agency