SBD/October 6, 2011/Events and Attractions

IMG Sports Marketing Symposium: British Airways Gearing Up For London Games

Van der Post says British Airways' London Games deal receiving positive feedback
At the IMG Sports Marketing Symposium, British Airways Managing Dir of Brands & Customer Experience Frank van der Post said the company in its sponsorship of the ‘12 London Games “looked at what we can do to go beyond sports.” This is exemplified in a “Great Britons“ program that gives people a chance to devise a menu to be served on British Airways flights, create artwork to be painted on a dozen planes or produce a film to be shown on planes and at the Opening Ceremony. In addition, British Airways “flew back the (British) Olympic and Paralympics teams from Beijing, and we went as far as to paint the nose of one of our planes gold because we had quite a number of gold medalists there. We received a tremendous amount of publicity out of this ... millions of dollars or pounds in PR ... all over the newspapers.” van der Post said employees have been targeted through a “My 2012” internal goal-setting program that features a website where “thousands of employees have challenged themselves to achieve new heights in ... sports, health and well-being, arts, business and entrepreneurship or community.” The campaign is working externally, as well, said van der Post, citing that 34% of Britons identify British Airways as an Olympic sponsor and that the company is “clearly seen as a very British part of the sponsorship.” He said, “Pride is the most emotive part of our campaigns, and it seems to be working well.”

PREPARATIONS: van der Post said British Airways in the run-up to the Games will “be running about 120,000 passengers a day, so operationally we have to be ready as well.” He said, “I’ve heard stories of our baggage handlers buying drain pipes the length of pole vaults to see if they could load them in the planes. (We need to) make sure that with Heathrow Airport we have a smooth incoming and outgoing traffic.” van der Post said navigating the red tape involved with Olympic promotions, partnership and general action is “not necessarily easy.” But he added, “You’re also very protected ... which means you’re not going to any rogue guys running around trying to take advantage of it. At the same time, I think you’ve got to build those relationships ... and you’ve got to see how far you can stretch the limits.” He said British Airways will leverage its executive club/frequent flier assets. van der Post: “We will be relaunching the executive club on the 16th of November; all the cards will be rebranded and have the Olympic logo (and) we will have special opportunities for our frequent fliers to earn tickets.” On how the airline will deal with potential ticket-use issues, van der Post said, “We’ve got a fairly robust program in place to make sure that those invited really show up. At the same time, the majority of tickets we have will go back to the public and be used in sales promotions.” British Airways spent $60M on its Olympic sponsorship and van der Post said, “We have 40,000 employees all over the world; if this was something that rallied them together to deliver, then it was well worth it.”

See a full agenda for the conference, and get highlights and updates from the sessions via SBJ/SBD's running blog and Twitter feed.
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