Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category

Olympic sponsors’ advertising

BA Hoarding, 7_8_12

The official sponsors of the Olympics have excelled in the fatuousness of their advertising. Take British Airways. BA has draped itself around the UK airports in which it operates and beyond. Annoying they certainly are. Take the one on the left. Not my best picture, I have to admit, but the point is well made. And it is a theme of sponsor advertising.

So, if you shout loud enough from the comfort of your own home, the athletes will hear you and hence do well. It is patently untrue. Even if I had a television and even if I cared to shout, which I do not on both counts,  it does not matter how loud I shout, they will not hear me.

And since when has it been propitious for an airline to advise people not to fly and instead to watch television?

The McDonald’s campaign shares with BA the patently untrue theme of Olympic sponsor advertising. Clearly it is about ordinary people who are proud, patriotic and enthusiastic, amongst other things. However, what are the indicators of the proudest mum? There are not too many mums who are not proud. I know mine was proud when I graduated, but to suggest she was ever the proudest would have been silly. There were a lot of proud mums at the graduation ceremony. I would not have liked to have tried to measure proudness on that day.

What is also quite interesting about the McDonald’s advertising is the tagline at the bottom: “We all make the Games”. There has been much debate about who can and cannot use the term “Olympics”. As a key sponsor of the “Games”, oddly, McDonald’s chooses to use the term “Games”, omitting the adjective that they paid so much to use!

Coming next…BP

Mars Rover successfully lands


What a contrast between the noise of the Olympics and the awesome team achievement of getting the Mars Rover safely onto the Martian surface, first with a parachute and then with rockets. And then get some pictures of the planet before breakfast. The seven minutes of terror proved anything but. Though images from NASA’s control room showed the tension.


Let’s do the math: Mars Rover £1.5billion; Olympics: £9billion. That’s about six Rovers for an Olympics. Legacy…let’s see, but I suspect the science will endure in a way the Olympics will not. Plus, if we talk about inspiring a generation, surely Mars/planetary exploration topCuriosity decends_6_8_12s running fast?

And here is the image taken from a satellite of the craft decending to the surface being slowed by the largest parachute ever used in a space programme.

Olympic brand circumvention

Time to “celebrate” those who are trying to get round the exclusivity of all things Olympics. I’m not endorsing this. I would be no happier with alternative corporate behemoths sponsoring relative to the ones that are. But I do like spoilers.

Top of the list seems to be Google. Each day on the UK Google site used by millions each day is some cartoon image that Google-ises the olympics. Today’s is the swimming and I have reproduced it on the left – unless Google has a problem with that.

Puma is the natural rival to Olympics sponsor, Adidas. They have gone with Usain Bolt’s image who is sponsored by them. He also endorsed Virgin Media in a recent campaign. Haribo (sweets) is trading on Union Jack packaging in contrast to official sweet, Cadburys.

Nike’s Olympic campaign is as good as they come (right). No Olympic colours, rings. No mention of London or the year. However, the postcode is remarkably Wimbledon where the Olympic tennis tournament is taking place. Nike has a good pedigree when it comes to ambush marketing.


I direct readers to The Drum, a website that has found a few good examples of circumvention. Again, I take an image from the website – square olympic rings with inverted letters for a tailor, of all businesses. There are many more to see on the website for amusement. Equally, Manifested Marketing (, has lots of examples.

Olympics opening ceremony

I am going to be one of the moaners. This was a most ghastly show. Contrived, silly, over-engineered and incoherent. Or was it? Despite the Queen sitting in the arena, John Lydon could be heard singing God Save the Queen and then cut off before “she ain’t no human being…fascist regime” – but Boyle got it in. We were treated to a little bit more of the Sex Pistols when Pretty Vacant was segued like one of those 80s chart topping medley hits, ‘Stars on 45’. Then there was a big kissing scene – some of which might not have gone down too well in some countries taking part. It was deliberate, was it not?

Those were the high points. What is to be made of the NHS scene with children being looked after by larger-than-life dancing nurses in 1930s uniforms and read stories by JK Rowling? In front of David Cameron, was that a warning to back off? The NHS is now immortalised in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Now untouchable. Or was it folly and plain stupid?

Rowan Atkinson as unfunny Mr Bean distracting Simon Rattle from conducting the London Symphony Orchestra; Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel spouting Shakespeare; a forlorn Tim Berners-Lee and a desktop computer; Mike Oldfield, good grief; Mary Poppins; David Beckham as James Bond, etc. No sign of Richard Branson, Tony Blair. Very strange.


It is now Saturday and this ceremony still bothers me. I’ve had to find an antidote. I’m listening to the Manic Street Preachers and it is working.

I reflect on what Boyle was trying to do last night. The newspapers are full of glowing reports. It is clear with so many plaudits he has achieved only to vindicate further the organisers for the event. Boyle has effectively lanced the boil that is this event in the eyes of its critics. It turns out to have been a master stroke by Seb Coe and company to appoint Boyle as artistc director. He delivered the critics to their table.

And then there is the question the depiction of ‘our’ history and our acquiescence in the changes that lead inexorably to the innanities of love by losing a mobile phone! Rest assured, the linearity of Boyles depiction of us is not real. There is a lot of struggle in us.

I reflect that Cameron is not embarrassed over the NHS scene. He does not believe that he is dismantling the NHS.

It was sickening to see such a large role played by the armed forces, many of whom have been involved in conflicts that have killed and maimed the compartriots of athletes representing their country at the ceremony. Maybe that was British irony. It seemed to me at the very least insensitive.

It has been an awful summer of cod and ignorant patriotism.

G4S – Nick Buckles on the BBC’s Bottom Line

It was a weekend of undertaking a few dull jobs. On these occasions, I usually catch up with a backlog of BBC podcasts. I can recommend In Our Time discussing Camus. But I had not realised that Nick Buckles of G4S notoriety was a bit of a radio personality. On 7 June he appeared not for the first time on The Bottom Line with Evan Davis to discuss the theme of employment. And what a treat – untarnished by the recent Olympics failure with respect to the failure to recruit – here he is talking about the Olympic contract and the contracts of employees. Buckles_1_TBL_17Jun2012; Buckles_2_TBL_17Jun2012

Protecting the Olympics (2)

Source: Holger.Ellgaard, Wikipedia

The Olympic debacle continues. Not only are there missiles ready to shoot down unauthorised aeroplanes over East London housing estates, but now army personnel are checking bags as people enter the Olympic village. G4S – a company to which the state has outsourced a lot of public sector work over the years – cannot meet its contractual obligations to supply 10,000 ‘guards’; though waits until 2 weeks before the event to tell anyone.

Its chief executive, Nick Buckles, went on the Today programme yesterday to answer some benign and straightforward questions from Justin Webb. Clearly, over the preceding 24 hours he had had some media training. The advice was – “tell your story and stick to it. Repeat it and then repeat it again; go for the sympathy thing, the company will take a big hit, maybe £50m.”

We wait to see if Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee – can get any more out of him next week when he appears before them.

The interview can be heard here.

Protecting the Olympics

Swiss Rapier Missiles. Source Wikepedia: Nirazul

The Guardian newspaper today reports “Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said the residents of the Fred Wigg tower had expressed “shock, anxiety and worry” over the prospect of missiles being stationed on top of their building, but they had been under “something of a misapprehension” about the nature of the equipment to be deployed and the risks deployment would bring.

“Yesterday David Forsdick, representing Philip Hammond, said the defence secretary was under no statutory duty to consult the residents, although an impact assessment had been carried out and the tenants’ human rights taken into consideration. Residents had no legitimate expectation that they would be consulted on issues involving the defence of the realm and national security.”

So, can we see the impact assessment? What kind of misapprehension about missiles on the roof might the residents have? To what extent is protecting the IoC and the Olympic event a defence of the realm?

The best of British design and the Olympics

It is starting to get a little bit tedious, the constant references to the past in terms of design: Pillar boxes, buses, etc. These posters, moreover, are embarassing. Does Richard Branson really equate with being Great?

It is also unfortunately very true now that what makes cities distinctive now is their past. The present and maybe future in terms of artefacts – buildings, products – are generic and global. The same artefacts appear in many of great cities across the globe. BBC Radio 4 seems obsessed about this point, and are discussing it at length. This is the debate’s latest instalment.