Catching Up With: Fred Popp, longtime SME executive, London resident

Longtime sports business executive Fred Popp
Longtime SME executive Fred Popp moved to Great Britain four years ago to launch a new, European consultancy for brands and properties called TeamUp. He currently works with a handful of soccer clubs, including Arsenal and Celtic. SportsBusiness Journal Olympics reporter Tripp Mickle sat down with him to get his perspective, as an American resident of Great Britain, on the Olympics.

There’s been a tremendous amount of consternation here about the ticket process. How have you been able to buy tickets?

POPP: The ticket process was really easy. I, like a lot of people, got frustrated by the early ballot and lottery. I put in what I wanted for tickets and didn’t get it. A lot of the complaining you hear from the general public are people who took one shot at (the lottery) and didn’t try to figure out what was it about the system that was challenging and how do I beat it.

I’ve got a two-and-a-half-year-old who wakes up every night. That’s how I found success. One morning she woke me up at 2:30, so I got online, had a go and got every (ticket) I wanted.

What did you want?

POPP: I wanted to spread my tickets out. I wanted Olympic Park tickets for the experience. I wanted to see Earl’s Court (volleyball). I wanted to see football. I wanted to get down to Weymouth for sailing. There’s a lot of stuff to do outside London and I was able to picture and choose everything. The only thing I couldn’t get was basketball because I specifically wanted American men’s basketball. I didn’t want anything else, and I couldn’t get that. But everything else was easy.

They started releasing tickets again last week. Were they easy to get?

POPP: I haven’t been back up. I’ll probably go for it tonight or tomorrow night.

An example of McDonald's advertising on the tube
What brand is doing the best job of marketing around the Games?

POPP: There’s one great success story that crosses over a couple of areas. That’s McDonald’s. It shouldn’t be tainted by the fact that Matt Biespiel (senior director, global brand strategy for McDonald’s) is a friend of mine.

The branding of McDonald’s is fantastic. There’s a branding campaign in all the transportation venues about being a “Stand up and cheerer” or “Being a red in the facer” or being a “Brought my iPader.” They’ve made every person a natural Olympic customer because their ads depict everyday people doing everyday things in sport as a cheerer. It has nothing to do with McDonald’s or consumption. It’s brilliant.

On top of it, they trained all the volunteer greeters so when you come across one of the (70,000) volunteers and ask for something and get the I-don’t-know-the-answer-but-I’ll-get-it-for-you reaction, that very American answer rather than the English “No” or “I don’t know” that you get at football and rugby and cricket here.

What have the organizers done poorly?

POPP: The only thing they’ve done poorly is determine who will be the tenant of the Olympic stadium. The fact that it wasn’t pre-planned to be a football tenant, the fact that it had an anti-football slant, is the biggest foul of the Games. This is a football country, it’s a football city. The only reason to have a 40,000-seat stadium is for football. They made a pig’s ear out of it.

What have they done well?

POPP: They’ve done a great job with way signage. The city is littered with easy way signage. It’s throughout the tube, greeters are at every tube point when you come out, they’ve pedestrianized the streets. They’ve done a really simple job of getting people to and from the Games by mass transport.

What will these Games be remembered for?

POPP: I hope it’s the world’s Olympics. It’s a very difficult thing to do. Every host city tries but fails. Beijing was the Chinese Olympics. Sydney was the Australian Olympics. Atlanta was the American Olympics. This is not the British Olympics. This is a very for-everyone experience. You look around, these aren’t all British. The British are gone. They’re away on vacation because they didn’t get the lottery tickets. Everyone who has some effort — North Americans, South Americans, Europeans, Africans — is here, so it’s a very, very world Games. Beyond anything I’ve seen in 12 years of going to Olympics.

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