SPONSORS OF GAMES SHOW BOOST TO IMAGE

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Olympic sponsorship can boost positive attitudes toward marketers, a recent poll says, but they don't always reap those benefits because consumers often can't identify the official sponsors or differentiate them from rivals.

In a Gallup & Robinson phone poll of 250 people conducted about two months before the opening ceremonies, 66% of respondents thought Olympic sponsors are doing a good thing for the country, and 60% believed sponsors are the leaders in their industries.

"With most media opportunities, there is very little evidence that people give advertisers `extra credit' just because they've run their messages in a particular context," said Gallup & Robinson President Scott Purvis. "With the Olympics, though, people view sponsorship as a good thing."

SPONSORS UNIDENTIFIABLE

Respondents, however, were often unable to identify the actual sponsors. The average person could only name 2.1 of the 44 businesses supporting the Summer Games. That is an improvement from the 1.6 sponsors consumers could name in January.

In some cases, consumers were as likely to credit a competitor as they were to identify the actual sponsor. Although Delta Air Lines is an official Olympic sponsor, respondents misidentified American Airlines and United Airlines as sponsors as often as they named Delta.

In the case of sponsor United Parcel Service, those polled were even more likely to name Federal Express Corp.

COKE, MCDONALD'S SUCCESS

Coca-Cola Co. and McDonald's Corp. were the most successful in linking with the 1996 Olympics; 47% of consumers knew Coca-Cola is associated with the Games, while 34% knew McDonald's is.

These two marketers also have been able to prevent the competition from getting credit for sponsorship.

Consumers named Coca-Cola as a sponsor almost five times as often as they named Pepsi-Cola Co., and McDonald's was given credit more than three times as often as Burger King Corp.

Mr. Purvis said this is probably due to a combination of factors: strong, Olympic-theme advertising by already well-known companies and residual credit from past sponsorships.

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