Omega opts for London-based store as opposed to sponsor pavilion

Peter Hürzeler, Omega Timing Board member; Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games; Nick Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group; Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC; and Stephen Urquhart, president of Omega, check out some of the Olympic equipment.
The London Games prompted Omega to open a store in the city’s East End area at least two years earlier than it would have done so otherwise, the company’s president said.

Speaking Monday afternoon after a press event, Omega President Stephen Urquhart said the company opted to open the store in Stratford’s Westfield Mall, Europe’s largest shopping center, to showcase the brand during the Olympics rather than build a showcase pavilion in the Olympic Park as it did in Beijing.

Urquhart said the store was “doing very good business” for a new location and added that the company would downsize the shop but keep the location open after the Games.

“I’ve been extremely satisfied with the results,” Urquhart said. “We believe in this area. … If you look at the other brands here, we’re in pretty good company, too.”

Urquhart’s comments are a validation of one of the biggest new developments tied to the recreation of the East End, an industrial part of London that was selected to be the heart of the Olympic Games in 2005. The Westfield Mall has more than 300 shops, and most visitors to the Olympic Park, which is next door, will pass through it once the Games begin Friday.

The Omega store, which opened last fall, is 2,591 square feet, making it the company’s largest location. Its two floors showcase everything from the company’s watches to its fragrances and leather collection. It also set up an Olympic museum with time-keeping equipment used in the 1932 Olympics and subsequent Games.

Omega sells more than 650,000 watches a year at prices ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. It is selling its commemorative London 2012 watch for more than $5,500.

Rogge, Urquhart and Hayek play around with the track starting equipment at the press event.
The company’s Westfield Mall boutique is one of two physical spaces Omega has established during the Olympics. The company also rented and renovated a women’s shelter in Soho that it will use to host parties and guests over the next two weeks. The company put in new flooring, repainted the walls, installed new toilets and redesigned some rooms in the Georgian townhouse. It will return the townhouse to St. Barnabas women’s shelter after the Games.

“This is part of our whole social responsibility approach to the Games,” Urquhart said.

In addition to adding social responsibility to its marketing efforts at these Olympics, Omega is doing much more with technology and social media than it did four years ago.

The company developed an iPad app that it released earlier this week called “New Birth of Modern Timekeeping.” The app explains the history of the company’s timekeeping work at the Olympics during the 1948 London Games and some of the innovations it’s made since then.

Omega hired three photographers who will be shooting and posting photographs to Facebook and Twitter during the Olympics. Its athletes, which include U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay and swimmer Natalie Coughlin, will be making references to the company on Twitter and Facebook, as well, Mr. Urquhart said.

“You have to have certain interaction (on social media),” Urquhart added. “You want to tell me that people go on Facebook and Twitter don’t want to hear about our timekeeping exploits? I agree. But if you can find a personal way, one or two athletes who can relate, you can make a difference rather than just create an ad.”

The bulk of Omega’s marketing spend will be devoted to its “Start Me Up” television spot, which will be airing worldwide. The spot features a remix of The Rolling Stones song and shows Chinese diver Qiu Bo, Coughlin, British heptathlete Jessica Ennis, Gay, South African swimmer Chad Le Clos and U.S. pole vaulter Jenn Suhr getting ready to compete at the Olympics.

Urquhart said that the company has not begun evaluating its return-on-investment for the London Games.

“People say, ‘The Olympics cost a lot of money,’” Urquhart said. “Of course it does. We sell our services, we buy back the marketing rights, we bring a lot of people. At the end of the day, you do something the best you can and it’s going to pay off in the long run.”
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