Profile: Jeremy Gilley

The man marketing world peace

BA and Olympic sponsorship: How being bold paid off

Sponsorship of the first Olympic Games in Great Britain for 64 years was an obvious option for the nation’s flag-bearing carrier. British Airways had already served as an official partner of the London 2012 bid and had flown Team GB and Paralympics GB out to Beijing in 2008.

BA built its advertising strategy for the London Games around a ‘Don’t Fly’ campaign that urged Britons to stay in the country and support the home team. This bold, patriotic statement was supplemented with a wide range of marketing activations, from PR stunts to experiential pop-ups.

For example, the airline created a huge image of heptathlete Jessica Ennis in the Hounslow area of London, which was visible from planes descending into Heathrow. For its ‘London Calling’ TV advert, the carrier also launched an online feature that allowed users to input their postcode and personalise the advert so that the plane went past their home.

Frank Van der Post, managing director of brands and customer experience, says: “Clearly the Olympics has been a fantastic platform for us. Would I invest in the next Olympics [as a Tier One sponsor]? Probably not because they’re in Rio. Would I have the same amount of money to spend next year on a single event? No I wouldn’t. But there are different opportunities for us now to really build on the platform of the Olympics.”

The results from BA’s Olympics campaign are impressive. An analysis of press coverage by agency Precise found that BA had the highest volume of coverage of all of the sponsors with a total number of 3,387 articles. The airline also reports that 86,000 people engaged with its HomeAdvantage hashtag on Twitter. Between October 2011 and August 2012, its Olympic sponsorship awareness rose by 19 percentage points to 54 per cent, according to Millward Brown data, placing it above other sponsors like Adidas and Visa.

Experiential projects like BA’s Park Live event and its Great Britons pop-up in Shoreditch, London also helped the airline reach a broader audience during the Olympics. “The interesting thing with the pop-up was that the people there were a different public to the kind you’d typically see at a BA event,” notes Van der Post.

“It wasn’t the 35- to 55-year-old Executive Club traveller. It was the 25- to 40-year-old young professionals who’d heard about it and decided they wanted to experience it. That shows there’s tremendous stretch in the BA brand.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Yes, but how many more bookings did they get as a result from the investment? That's the only number that matters. 86,000 tweets doesn't mean a damn thing if not a single person booked a holiday because of it.

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  • It's great that BA is being turned round but how can he claim this is due to the To Fly. To serve campaign and the Olympics effect? The former was indeed a good 'stake in the ground' campaign after the strike debacle as it reminded people of BA's heritage. But I question whether it resonates with customers. Airlines are not flying to serve us, they are flying to make money. Whilst the 'world's favourite airline' strapline had to go I think resorting to the heritage one is not the solution. easyjet had a field day too with their 'To fly. To save' riposte.

    The Olympics was surely a vanity exercise and whilst Mr van der Post might have sold it to an unconvinced Board, the public were just as baffled too. Some of the posters on the underground were creatively dreadful. It's been strongly suggested in the marketing press that the Olympics effect fizzled out soon after the event - did BA really get its money worth? If they'd spent it in other ways could they not have had the same or better effect on sales (which is what it is all about)?
    But he is right when questioned by Robin Sutherland over flying now being a commoditised service - BA must be transparent on costs and do 'service' better than the low-cost airlines. This shouldn't be difficult.

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