Five Questions For: David Magliano

The director of marketing for London’s Olympic bid on extending the brand beyond the Games.
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s director of marketing for London’s Olympic bid, David Magliano understands the kind of high-stakes brinksmanship—and foresight—involved in crafting a winning proposal. The two-time U.K. marketer of the year—and, currently, brand director for the Co-operative Group, which operates more than 4,800 retail trading outlets—emailed with ?What If! Lead Editor Bret Begun about extending the London 2012 brand past this summer, the role of social media at the Games, and the principles behind marketing a product or service compared with an event. Edited excerpts:
  • Magliano

Begun: One question that arises after every Games is what the host country does to prevent facilities its built from becoming money pits. It costs $11 million to maintain Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, for example, and it’s struggled to attract visitors since 2008. London 2012 is a hot brand now, but how do you extend its appeal?

Magliano: One of the original planning principles of London 2012 was that no permanent facility would be built unless there was an identified, long-term need and a 25-year business plan underwritten by the relevant local authority. The final tenant of the Olympic Stadium is still to be decided—there are three finalists, including the West Ham football club—but it looks as if London will avoid the White Elephant syndrome that has affected previous Olympic host cities. The Aquatics Center will remain (in a smaller configuration) and so will the Velodrome. Many of the other structures, which are temporary, will be reused for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

What’s the difference between marketing an event like the Olympics and marketing a product or service, like you do in your current role as a brand director?

The difference is a question of scale—events like the Olympic Games attract more media attention and occupy more of the public’s attention, especially on social media, than any product or service I’ve been involved in. Also, their quasi-public nature means the number of stakeholders involved is astronomical compared to even the most commercial enterprises. That said, I still think the principles are the same.

You’ve been part of two of the highest-profile bids in British history—London 2012 and an attempt to bring the World Cup to England in 2018, which failed. Can you share some of your learnings around the art of the pitch?

This topic requires a book, not a paragraph! But, basically, it boils down to a deep understanding of the decision makers and the willingness of the bidder to demonstrate its ability to meet those needs in a compelling way.

When Olympics are held on foreign soil, there’s a lot of griping in the U.S. about what’s shown live on TV, what’s shown on tape delay, and what streams online (see #nbcfail). Those criticisms are amplified now because of social media. How do you balance using Twitter, Facebook, etc., to promote what you’re doing without having it undermine it? And is this an issue unique to the Olympics or is it more pervasive?

As media consumption becomes more fragmented, the power of events like the Olympic Games is derived from the fact they can’t be time-shifted. You can time-shift episodes of Mad Men, and take part in the conversation, but not the 100-meter final. Rights holders, such as the IOC, are conscious of rotating the host around continents. Broadcasters need to take this into account when they decide how much to pay for the rights to show the event, and how best to exploit the rights they have acquired.

What’s the right relationship between sports and corporate sponsors of sport? Should McDonald’s really have the presence it does at the Olympics? Or are we just much more puritanical about this stuff in the U.S. than the rest of the world is?

The debate about sports and corporate sponsors is happening in the U.K., too. But sport couldn’t happen without corporate sponsors, and McDonald’s is a good one.

Image courtesy of David Magliano.

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