Olympics, construction and marketing

Three words in the headline – and what’s the connection between them?

It’s a secret. I don’t mean I’m not going to tell you. I mean the connection between them is the fact that companies involved in constructing the Olympics venues are not allowed to publicise the fact.

The Olympics is a great opportunity to showcase many things about Britain, starting, of course, with our sporting talent.

But we should also be celebrating the skills and expertise of the UK construction industry which designed and built the Olympic venues on time and generally on budget. [more]

The companies that have been involved in that are (almost) as proud of their involvement as the athletes competing in the Olympics. The difference, however, is that the eyes of the world’s media are on the athletes but the construction companies have been deliberately gagged.

The Olympic marketing rules – backed by a specific Act of Parliament in the UK – are designed to protect the marketing rights of Olympic sponsors. One of the ways they do that, bizarrely, is by preventing companies from proclaiming the work they have done on the buildings and other facilities that are currently the focus of world attention.

Now, there is clearly good reason to protect the rights of sponsors who have put millions of pounds into the Games. Without their financial contribution the Olympics possibly would not take place – certainly not at the scale we are seeing in London and elsewhere this month.

It is difficult to see, however, how a company issuing a press release or advert drawing attention to the fact that it provided the door fittings for the Velodrome is going to diminish the benefits which McDonalds gets as sponsors of the Olympic hamburgers.

It is even more difficult to see how there would be any clash once the Olympics are over – but, in fact, the rules will still prevent companies talking about what they have done for the Olympic construction programme for years after the athletes and tourists have gone home.

Following protests from many people in the construction industry the government has said it will ‘look at’ the restrictions – but doesn’t plan even to start this process until the autumn of this year, so nothing is going to change until 2013 at the earliest. By which time, despite the tremendous success of the Games, the details of who built or supplied what will be of limited public interest.

Increasingly in the B2B world of construction marketing it is your ability to show potential customers what you have done and to publicise endorsements from clients or customers that is key to gaining new work.

Some sense of urgency from the government would, even at this late stage, help British industry to capitalise on the success of the Olympic Games. Were not such economic benefits one of the things we were promised when the bid was won?

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