London 2012 – Why its not too late for brands to take part: Ruben Pillai, Olympics Co-ordinator

There is no doubt about the huge promotional opportunities presented by the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games, but the rules and regulations are putting many off. The Games are nearly upon us, and the excitement surrounding the world’s biggest sporting event grows by the day. Every news report sets the heart racing, particularly if you live in the capital, and the rising level of anticipation is ramping up the electricity in the atmosphere. A big part of the mounting excitement is the thrill of the unexpected. No one really knows what it will be like when London and the UK explode onto the Olympic scene this summer.

One thing we do know is that whatever happens, it’s going to be huge – world-beating performances, massive crowds and global coverage. All of which add up to big promotional opportunities for brands.

Many of the major brands that have ‘done’ the Olympics before in other countries know the score and have spent millions on securing their presence at London 2012 well in advance. The rest are left considering their position, weighing up the stringent promotional rules and regulations that understandably come with such a high-profile event, against the clear benefits of engaging with a huge audience in what will be a festival-like atmosphere.

By now, some will have planned their strategy, while others, with less than six months to go before the start of the Games, may think it’s too late. However, there is still time. This kind of opportunity comes once in a lifetime and it’s vital for brands to get involved, no matter what the scale. And with so many people focused on key areas of London and various sites outside the capital, there’s plenty of scope to create your own micro-experience and add to the vibrant, fun Olympic atmosphere.

Of course, this is where it pays to understand the do's and dont's of outdoor activity during the Olympics and think about maximum footfall areas. We’ve looked at this in detail and believe there is lots of potential for some creative and engaging experiential activity. For example, although product sampling is prevented within 200 metres of many Olympic venues, there are certain sites where there will still be high footfall at this distance and beyond.

Don’t forget that the whole of London will be gripped by Olympic fever, whether you’re in Westfield Stratford or Westfield Shepherd Bush. And the latter is not subject to LOCOG’s promotional guidelines. This means you don’t have to be in the Olympic Village to make an impact. There are also no rules, for instance, for boats travelling on the Thames, and with a couple of the venues located near the River Bank, this could present an exciting opportunity.

What’s more, Olympic activity is taking place across the UK, so you can extend your reach far beyond the capital. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is actually hosting the very first Olympic event two days before the Opening Ceremony on 25 July 2012. Plus a host of football stadiums are being used, from Hampden Park in Glasgow and St James Park in Newcastle, to Old Trafford in Manchester and the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Events are also taking place at Eton Dorney in Surrey (rowing), Weymouth on the south coast (sailing) and Hadleigh Farm in Essex (mountain biking). So if you thought the Olympics was only a party for Londoners, think again!

The Olympic experience is also about more than just sporting achievement, opening the doors for even more brands to get involved. The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad will take centre stage during the summer months. Launched in 2008, it is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements, inspiring creativity in all forms of arts and culture, especially among young people. To date, more than 19 million people have taken part in a wide range of events across the UK, from local projects and workshops to large-scale performances, with the London 2012 Festival its Grand Finale!

The Festival, itself, will feature more than 1,000 performances and events. Leading artists from across the globe will come together for this unique event to celebrate the Olympics. With dance, music, theatre, fashion, food, art or film in the offing, there’s sure to be something that resonates with your brand to get involved in. This is happening throughout the UK, with many events free to attend. The Festival opens on 21 June and runs to 9 September, the date of the closing ceremony for the Paralympics.

There simply has never been a better time to run an experiential campaign in the UK. Even if it’s as small as sampling sun tan lotion in the picturesque town of Weymouth to coincide with the Olympic sailing event, there are still lots of opportunities out there to get your brand into consumers’ hands – or in this case their faces too!