Just over half-way through there can be little doubt that the 2012 London Olympics has given Brand Britannia a very big boost, at least qualitatively, writes Sir Martin Sorrell.
Arguments may rage over the quantitative benefit. Will the legacy justify the £9bn infrastructure investment? Will consumer and tourist spending be enhanced to the tune of £850m, as Visa, a major Olympic sponsor suggests? Will advertising and marketing spending be boosted beyond the normal and the £750m predicted?
Whatever the relative strengths of these arguments, there is no doubt the intangible benefits have been considerable in many ways so far.
From personal experience, I can attest to the energy and enthusiasm generated by the torch relay – and the excellent activation by Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lloyds TSB. The opening ceremony was an inside-joke domestic triumph, but also an international one, despite few knowing what GOSH or the NHS stood for. The somewhat controversial, time-delayed US transmission generated record audiences, more than Atlanta and Beijing, and record advertising revenues, including significant online revenues for the first time. London 2012 is truly the first digital games, with Twitter really coming to the fore.
It may be difficult for the closing ceremony to match the thinking man’s or woman’s opening ceremony, despite being one man’s view of British history. But the likely popular music emphasis and Brazilian coda may be equally spectacular and satisfying.
After a seemingly slow gold medals start – although actually little different to Beijing – medals are being showered on Team GB like confetti, and the nation in the stadia and outside are right behind our athletes. The atmosphere in the velodrome or stadium is truly incredible and has had a massive emotional and performance impact.
The events organisation has been excellent, despite some missing buses and cars and non-performing satnavs. The security, which some have described as an Achilles heel, has been superb, relatively unobtrusive and pleasant, and the army’s involvement must be welcomed over G4S. The Brazilians must be learning a lot of lessons for Rio 2016 and the 2014 world cup.
Saturday night in the stadium was a unique experience and privilege for all involved. It must have a galvanising impact on youth as Lord Coe laid out in his mother of all pitches to the IOC in Singapore seven years ago. The coalition government has also realised that this is a business Olympics as well as a sporting one, arranging excellent summits on investment, China and creative services. These will stimulate foreign direct investment and stimulate much-needed export interest in the Bric countries and other emerging markets.
From a branding, or intangible point of view, the benefits have been massive. Great Britain looks strong, modern, intelligent, quirky, humorous, culturally diverse, well-organised, technological, motivated and sporting. Even the media, after a slow start, is right behind the Olympics and it can’t have done the coalition any political harm. Lord Coe, Paul Deighton and their team have done a magnificent job. Let’s hope we can return from our jubilee and Olympic break motivated to win economic gold and the political leaders in Europe and the US win deficit-dealing gold medals.
Sir Martin Sorrell is chief executive of WPP, the marketing group