With a Royal celebration and a summer of football to boost sales, the Olympic Games should top a golden year for retailers. Kate Miller reports

If there’s one sport that the Brits could win Olympic gold in it would be cynicism. Yep, give us a box of chocolates and we’ll moan about getting fat. Give us a sunny day and we’ll grumble about being too hot. It’s a national sport this talking a good thing down. The Aussies have a point when they call us the whingeing poms. So it’s not really surprising that much of the Olympics press coverage, and no small number of the conversations being had in pubs and around dinner tables throughout the UK, have been negative and, well, a bit whingey.

HIM managing director Tom Fender says that we do it before every big occasion, especially those we are organising ourselves. “Before the Royal Wedding it was automatically assumed that no one would watch it and it would be a bit of a shambles. But Britain is actually quite good at putting on a show.”

He says that despite the success of the Royal Wedding, we’ve quickly slipped back into old habits. “There’s a feeling now that Britain can’t put on a major sporting event, but I think that we will put on a great occasion and it will be very exciting.”

He points out that the feel-good factor following the Royal Wedding last year had a long-lasting effect. “Lots of growth came after the event - the good feeling lasted. This summer we’ve got more things to do with the Royal Family, and there’s sport and the Olympics - it’s almost too good an opportunity to pass up on.”

In fact, from June with Euro 2012 through until September it’s pretty much one event after another, with the UEFA European Football Championships, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the tennis at Wimbledon.

Unsurprisingly, official Olympic sponsors such as Cadbury are ramping up the activity for what trade communications manager at Kraft Foods Susan Nash calls “the biggest event in our lifetime”.

“The Olympics is a billion pound opportunity that is unlike anything any of us has ever dealt with before” says Nash. “It’s important that retailers make the most of this opportunity.” She points to the fact that there are 10,000 lines of consumer products and 2.5 million mascot toys for the Olympics, plus five airport stores, three train station shops and two floors of John Lewis in London’s Oxford Street dedicated to London 2012 merchandise.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) wholesale trading director Darren Goldney agrees, pointing out that the company saw growth in value sales of 13.3% year on year during the World Cup period (Nielsen four weeks ending July 11, 2010). “Given this is the Olympic Games, and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see them in the UK, we anticipate sales of soft drinks will increase in the run-up to and during London 2012.”

Fender says that the way that the Olympics has been organised, it’s 14 days of finals rather than just the one day. “It’s going to create phenomenal euphoria, but it probably won’t start until the week before the Games start. You can’t leave the planning until the week before, though.”

Cadbury’s Nash adds: “It’s never too early to get started and think about how your store could maximise this massive opportunity, by stocking special limited-edition Olympic-themed products and creating special displays.”

According to Fender, the obvious stuff, like making sure you’ve got everything chilled, that you are well stocked up with crisps and snacks, and that you’ve got enough staff and so on, is the easy part. “It’s about delivering the strategy, and how many retailers are going to be ready for it?”

Nash points out that retailers who think that the Games are London-centric are missing the point. “Events will take place all over the country in England, Wales and Scotland, and the Olympic Flame will be within one hour of 95% of the population on its journey through the UK, presenting opportunities for outlets throughout Great Britain.”

Cadbury has been quick off the mark when it comes to using the Games as a promotional tool. Its Spots vs Stripes campaign started in 2010 and is what Nash calls an ‘always on’ campaign. “Retailers can tap into it at any time they wish with the confidence that it’s a long-running activity so there’s no danger of missing the activity windows.”

The company has been encouraging retailers to get involved in community activities by contacting their local community centres, clubs or charities to ask if they’d like to include a Spots vs Stripes element to events being planned. For 2012 Cadbury is continuing to ask consumers to help record several iconic music tracks to be released in the Keep Team GB Pumped Campaign.

Its latest big event is the Trebor promotion. The competition, dubbed The Trebor Baton of Sweet Success, which runs across single and multipacks including Trebor Mint Pot. It offers 18 prizes including a two-day VIP experience including a five-star hotel stay, London 2012 Olympic Games tickets, and a unique VIP event and a grand prize of a seven-night stay in the hotel with tickets to the Olympic Games events on each day and a ‘money can’t buy’ VIP experience on every day of the trip, such as a helicopter ride over London, a personal shopping experience or VIP theatre tickets. The competition will be communicated through a marketing campaign from April 2, beginning with announcement ads in the national press, plus outdoor, radio, digital and PR activity for three months. A final burst of support is designed to drive sales until the campaign ends on June 27.

Cadbury will also be unleashing its Unwrap Gold promotion, giving consumers the chance to win one of hundreds of London 2012 ticket packages through special gold vouchers hidden in more than 18 SKUs. The competition which runs from April 2 to July 7 invites customers who find a gold voucher to call a telephone number to find out which ticket package they have won, which will include entry to the games, accommodation and transport to and from London. There will also be a chance to win thousands of further prizes every day by typing in a unique pack code into a website.

Another official sponsor, Procter & Gamble (P&G), is backing the Games with its biggest brand campaign ever, and is investing more than £100m in a multi-faceted marketing strategy featuring team GB athletes in the run-up to and during London 2012.

Thousands of Olympic tickets are up for grabs with key P&G products including Pampers, Head & Shoulders, Gillette, Olay and Flash. The giveaway will also be supported by targeted advertising campaigns including two ‘blockbuster’ TV advertisements, and sponsorship of ITV’s Daybreak programme. Packaging of participating brands has been redesigned to feature the new P&G Olympic medallion logo, and some brands will be available in special gold packs. Supporting POS including bunting and balloons will also be available to order from P&G, enabling retailers to make their own eye-catching displays.

Brands Bold and Lenor will also be given a makeover on the Crystal Rain and White Lily SKUs with packs featuring a Union Jack flash across the top of the box and the P&G Worldwide Olympic Partner logo on the front of pack. Lenor will also be releasing a new scent, Success Blossom.

P&G head of trade communications Paul Lettice says: “One of the most innovative aspects of the entire project has been to bring together many of P&G’s leading brands and present a united promotional face to our shoppers for the first time. Retailers can take advantage of this by creating cross-category London 2012 themed displays and driving trial and repeat purchase by creating theatre in-store.”

CCE is running several on-pack promotions across My Coke (Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero), Powerade and Glaceau vitaminwater, the latter using Jessie J as its brand ambassador for London 2012. The singer will be at the forefront of the brand’s promotion, with consumers given the chance to win a pair of tickets to the Games, plus a two-night stay in a five-star central London hotel, and an invitation to party with Jessie J at an exclusive Glaceau vitaminwater event. The competition can be entered via the brand’s Facebook page. There will also be 100 runner-up prizes of HD video cameras, plus everyone can access free and exclusive Jessie J content with each purchase. The promotion is being supported by a national press campaign and digital activity on Facebook. In-store pos material is also planned.

For Powerade, CCE has launched an on-pack promotion giving away the Powerade Olympic Games Sports Bottle free with every purchase. The bottle features the Olympic rings and the design will be used in the Olympic village by competing athletes. The promotion runs until the end of October and features across promotional packs of Powerade ION4 and Powerade Zero. Packs will carry a unique code which can be put into a special website, or via a smartphone.

CCE wholesale trading director Darren Goldney says: “The promotions will be supported by high-profile multi-media campaigns so we expect awareness to be high. This will be a great opportunity for retailers as shoppers will be looking for special packs in the chiller and retailers should ensure visibility on shelf and keep stocked of promotional packs to maximise sales. We will also have a wide range of eye-catching Olympic themed POS that retailers can use to create theatre in-store.”

It’s not only through food and grocery that retailers can get the Olympics flavour as there is also an opportunity to sell licensed gifts. The London 2012 Licensing programme has more than 50 licensees across categories including clothing, accessories, collectables, homeware, toys and souvenirs. Head of licensing and retail at London 2012, Simon Lilley, says that with products to suit all pockets, it’s perfect for the convenience sector: “The convenience channel also has a particularly good opportunity to take advantage of events such as the Olympic Torch Relay, where people will be lining the streets and keen to pick up a piece of the action to help cheer on the runners. Convenience retailers are perfectly placed to capture these sales based on their locations, accessibility and number across the UK.”

Of course, there are a limited number of official sponsors, but everyone wants to be involved. While the rules are extremely strict (see p66) on what can and can’t be flagged up about the Olympics, nobody is going to make retailers take down their Union Jacks (or any other country’s flags come to that) from in-store displays. James Brundle of Spar Walthamstone, London says that whatever he does in-store, he’ll be doing it “with a bit of class”. “Our customers come from a long way away - it’s not just the locals -and they expect nice things from us, so we’ll not be doing anything tacky.”

The store is only two tube stops from Olympic Park in Stratford, but James admits he’s yet to get his thinking cap on as to exactly what he’ll be doing, or how the Games will affect him. “There will be lots of promotions on alcohol through Spar, but apart from that I’m not sure. But we will do something”.

He’s extremely enthusiastic about the Games and says he’s seen a positive changes to the area already. “It’s brilliant. This used to be a rundown part of London and it’s changed it and created employment,” he points out.

While companies that aren’t sponsors can’t associate themselves with the Olympics directly, many are showing their patriotic colours through a change of packaging. Haribo has introduced a limited-edition design featuring the Union Jack on its Starmix bag. The design will feature across bag sizes from 160g to 250g. Swizzels Matlow will also be launching a range of Union Jack-themed products this year, while Absolut Vodka has released a limited-edition Absolut London bottle in collaboration with graphic artist Jamie Hewlett, initially available from Selfridges and Harvey Nichols but rolling out next month.

Kids’ confectionery company Tangerine has made changes to two of its brands. Barratt has a new British-themed British Mix with fruit flavoured soft gums in shapes including a red telephone box, bulldog, tea pot, guardsman and Big Ben. Lion gets behind the sporting theme with Lion Football Gums shaped gums which include a football boot, ball, shirt, shorts and a trophy.

Adam Margolin, Spar UK head of marketing support, says that when the company developed its plans for summer 2012, it had to bear in mind the legal restrictions. “However, 2012 is not just about the Olympics as lots of events are taking place this year, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Euro 2012 football, European Athletics Championships and Wimbledon. Each of these events will create a sense of community and patriotism.”

James Brundle says that despite the detractors chipping away during the run-up, the event itself will get everyone involved. “People will moan until it’s actually happening and then they’ll watch it anyway, so it will definitely translate to an uplift in sales.”

As Tom Fender sums up: “Ignore it at your peril.”•