LONDON—With the Olympic flame out in Vancouver, InterContinental Hotels Group is looking forward to its sponsorship of the forthcoming Summer Games scheduled for 2012 in the U.K.
Chris Hale, newly appointed and internally referred to as ‘head of London 2012,’ said the decision for Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express to become a sponsor is being seen as a positive step for the brand.
“We saw it as a big opportunity, not least because we’re a British company with a British chief executive and based near London. We’ve also got a large hotel estate in the U.K. of all different brands, and we thought it would be great from that side as well as a fantastic opportunity for Holiday Inn, as an enormous brand globally, to further put our brand on the world stage”.
Although externally the sponsorship is by Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, internally IHG hopes to benefit across all of its brands. As a Tier-3 domestic sponsor, the brand is the “official hotel sponsor of the games”.
What this exactly involves is still being hashed out, however. Hale said although there are no plans to build new hotels on the extensive development site in East London, accommodation and expertise will be provided from now up to the games and beyond.
In terms of expenditure, Hale is as yet unclear.
“I can’t give you an exact figure, but as a Tier-3 provider … it’s a part-cash, part-value-in-kind deal. We’ll be lending a lot of our service and expertise to help the Olympics with various elements in putting on the Games”.
At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where the brand sponsored the Great Britain team, this has been as simple as providing pillows and extra bedding for the athletes’ village, but the involvement is likely to step up for London.
Coming toward the end of an extensive global reinvestment and Holiday Inn/Holiday Inn Express brands re-launch, the sponsorship deal is seen as timely. Hale said there are two key benefits anticipated for the brand, primarily “by being associated with the Olympics it gives us a great opportunity for our customers to reassess what the brand stands for. We’re spending £600 million (US$903.2 million) on a global re-launch that will be complete by the end of this year. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our customers to say, ‘I haven’t tried a Holiday Inn recently’, and then go and try it”.
The second main benefit according to Hale is “the Olympics gives us a tremendous platform to motivate our employees on a global basis. There will be, as yet to be defined, a lot of opportunities for our staff to get involved in the Games—opportunities, for example, around the athletes’ village—and we’re talking to London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in terms of how we can add to that and greatly improve the experience from what it’s traditionally been”.
A mixed reception
The overall response to hosting the Olympics in the U.K. has been something of a mixed reception. Coming a day before the terrorist bombings in London in 2005, the Olympic selection celebrations were short-lived and very quickly overshadowed. Since then the U.K. press has been focusing on the costs, particularly an estimated £196-million (US$295-million) over-spend with the revised budget for the Olympic stadium, aquatics centre and other venues now at £1.4 billion (US$2 billion), compared with the £1.2 billion (US$1.8 billion) originally assigned to venue costs.
IHG does not have concerns about any negative implications of sponsorship.
But Hale said the company has indeed explored this possibility: “Talking to other people who been involved in previous games—there is always a period when the general population are not really on board with what it’s all about … but all the games have experienced a dramatic upturn in public opinion from probably about a year out depending on the local market. It’s a massive investment for the U.K. and a really good opportunity to put London on the stage, and we’re really proud to be part of that”.
With just less than 16 months until the event begins, firm plans for sponsorship are being discussed.
“Short-term we are just talking about our involvement at a very headline level”, Hale said. “We’re communicating with our staff initially, and we will begin to talk to our guests and the broader public as we go through this year. … We’re now busy planning out with (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) what the next two years look like. I’m anticipating by early Q2 we’ll have a pretty clear idea as to exactly what our involvement will be”.