So for those of you that don’t know, it is now looking almost certain that Durban will be confirmed as the host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games after Edmonton (the only competing city) pulled out.

Should the fact that we won a ‘race’ that no one seemingly wanted to take part in be reason for concern? Probably… but I will leave that for the sceptics and politicians to debate and no doubt there will be lots of that considering the costly investment. However I for one am really excited by the news of another major sporting attraction potentially coming to our shores.

I was fortunate enough to have been involved in the 2010 FIFA WC and witness first-hand the opportunities that were created for the likes of our industry. Can we compare this to the FIFA WC or Olympics? Obviously it’s not on that scale but it’s certainly still a much welcomed catalyst.

The SportsIndex 2015 Annual Report scored the Commonwealth Games as their top sporting event in the UK for 2014
(The SportsIndex analyses the levels of overall UK public awareness and news sentiment for 50 leading domestic and international sports events by peak buzz score, the net difference between the amount of respondents hearing positive news and those hearing negative news.)

Source: SportsIndex 2015 annual report

What is concerning for me though is that the Commonwealth Games as an event often seems to be a hit and miss, as seen with Dehli 2010. But I do believe that is purely down to the host country’s ability to put on an event of this magnitude (*cue Eskom jokes) and how much the people are willing to get behind it. Glasgow showed us that this event can be a major attraction and no doubt Australia will also lift the games to new heights in 2018. Amazingly South Africa will be the first African country to host these games which gives us more reason to get behind it.

So with the above in mind and after putting my sponsorship marketing cap on, I then started to quantify the potential opportunities and play out in my head how we could emulate some of the globally acclaimed sponsorship campaigns executed at previous Commonwealth Games’ in our space when it dawned on me… I don’t recall any major successful campaigns to speak of coming out of the last Commonwealth Games…

To make sure I perhaps didn’t miss anything, I went and did some research to see how the Glasgow CG’s faired and whilst the Minister of Scotland described the event as “glittering”, which I think most of us can agree with, the sponsorship leveraging & brand activity surrounding the games came in for some heavy criticism. With expectations high after the London 2012 Olympics (who could forget the P&G Moms campaign as an example), Glasgow was largely deemed as a missed opportunity for sponsors / brands.

Evidence of this was supported by a report from YouGov which revealed that in the lead up to the Glasgow games, nearly three-quarters of Scottish consumers were unable to identify a single sponsor of the Commonwealth Games. According to their report, of the official sponsors, energy company SSE was correctly identified by 16% of Scots, with other sponsors such as Emirates (13%) and Virgin Media (7%) receiving even lower recognition levels. To make things worse, a quarter of Scots mistakenly believed that RBS was an official sponsor.

It seems the main reason for this lack of activity given by marketing pundits in the region was put down to sponsors being sceptical after the Commonwealth Games in Delhi 2010, and hence failed to capitalize on the opportunity. That begs the question, why sponsor it in the first place then?

One thing we’ve seen since 2010 is that the opportunity to host these major events are few and far between, so whilst this event may not be in the same league as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games, the fact is that this will be another great platform for us and if there’s anything we can learn from Glasgow, it is not to underestimate this event or to make assumptions and decisions based on previous hosts’ activities.

All the Eskom and current general political uncertainty issues aside, I firmly believe that if we can get our house in order before then, South Africans will fully embrace this event and it will go down as one of the most memorable Commonwealth Games ever. Then for the marketers involved, let’s create some memorable campaigns that will go beyond just saying “Proud Sponsor”.


Written by Clint Paterson, CEO of Levergy