What Makes a Successful Olympics? It’s the Participation, Stupid!

Well, aren’t we having a successful Olympic Games!  A huge medal haul, that will undoubtedly grow, an amazing Opening Ceremony, a mini-heatwave on it’s way for the closing weekend and a slew of positive newspaper headlines, slowly making up for the negative ones about Politicians, the Economy, Hacking, Rioting, Dysfunction et al of recent weeks, months, years.  I live in London, and it’s been an amazing place to be!

I’ve also been involved with the Games in a more direct way, through King of Shaves’ sponsorship of Team GB athlete James Ellington, we stepped in earlier this year to help him fund his training to get him to the Games, and help him realise potential.

No one was more gutted than me to see his dreams of competing in the 200m men’s semi-finals (and finals) evaporate yesterday, when in his heat, he ran the slowest he’s ran all year, and was eliminated.  Following him featuring in the documentary ‘Personal Best’ (out on DVD now) which followed him from 2007-11 I’m sure he, and his many fans, expected him to qualify for the semi’s.  Sadly he didn’t.  And I know right now he’ll be down.

But I’m not.  The fact he even was able to RUN in our home Olympics saw him overcome huge adversity.  The way he went about it, and on elimination, the way he responded (thinking he’d let everyone down) is the cocktail of life – a mixture of huge highs, and huge lows.  But, people like James will always attract success, and support – even if he feels he’s failed.  To truly succeed, you need to truly fail first – only then, you’ll understand what success looks like, and go out and get it.

Late last night I was delighted to receive the words below (unsolicited) from Ashley Turner, who wanted to point out that “Whether You Win or Lose, It’s The Taking Part That Counts” .  It made me smile, I sent it to James and Ashley has given me permission to publish it – see below.

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Sponsorship With Substance

Sponsorship plays an integral part in making the Olympic Games what they are; ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’.  The Olympics need sponsorship equally as much as the sponsors need the Olympics. The Olympics gain vital funding and the sponsors gain exclusivity as the official soft drink, credit card or even razor of the games, whilst the brand is beamed to billions of people worldwide.

But is there an ounce of substance to these sponsorship deals? What relevance does a fast food chain have to the Olympic Games?

Well to answer both questions; no and very little.

So in truth the sponsorships are based upon financial gain and brand power, with very little thought for relevance, substance, credibility and social responsibility. And with 22 Gold Medal for Team GB already, it’s fair to say you probably will never be more than an advert away from seeing a Gold medallist influencing what toothpaste we purchase or what razor we shave with. To the athletes I say good luck to them. They have achieved fantastic success in sports which only get mainstream attention during the Olympic Games and sports which pay very little in comparison to footballers, golfers and tennis players. If they can get a big cheque from a market leading company for 30 seconds of terrible acting, then good for them.

A lot has been spoken about legacy in regards to London 2012 and with Team Gb’s excellent performance and the spectacle we have witnessed; I think the legacy is safely secured. But what legacy is created by these companies throwing millions of pounds at the games in an attempt to gain further market share in markets that are already globalised?

Thankfully there is one sponsorship deal I have witnessed which does have substance and social responsibility. The partnership of James Ellington and King of Shaves. Today James Ellington bowed out of the Olympics after just 21 seconds on track. The 200m sprinter finished outside the top 3 places in his heat which was necessary to reach the semi-finals. The Olympics have such fine margins between complete euphoria and agonising heartbreak and no finer margin than the 1 second which eliminated Ellington.
But whilst the front and back pages of national newspapers will be graced with Gold medal winning GB athletes, James Ellington’s story goes far beyond his contrasting exit.

It may sound cliché but for Ellington to be part of team GB and compete at his home games, really is a dream come true. The prospect was nothing more than a pipe dream not that long ago. The 200m sprinter suffered injury which resulted in him missing out on vital funding and seriously jeopardised his chances of reaching the games.

However, Ellington stayed focused and once fit recorded a 200m time which cemented his place in Team GB. Funding was still an issue though and Ellington put himself on eBay in a last ditch attempt to reach the games. The ups and downs kept coming as he believed he had secured funding only to find out the bid was a hoax and he was back to square one. Step up Will King (Founder of King of Shaves) and allow Ellington to realise his dream. Will provided James with funding and in exchange Ellington became the clean shaven face of King Of Shaves.

Having only spent 21 seconds on the track, is it fair to say Will King’s backing of Ellington was a mistake both financially and for the brand?

Yes, that’s if you believe the sole purpose of sponsorship is for financial gain and an opportunity to parade your athlete with your product in hand. However Will King does not think like this. Sponsoring James was never for financial gain, it was part of his ‘Wingman Project’ which has already seen him invest in young, talented entrepreneurs and hopefully many more athletes and entrepreneurs to come. Will King invests in people and by doing so with Ellington he has added to his portfolio which will undoubtedly continue to grow.

In a time when sports funding in state schools have been cut, when getting a break is harder due to current economics, Will King has propelled King Of Shaves as a social responsible organisation that gives people a chance to fulfil their ambition.
Will King will be disappointed for James, but he won’t regret backing him for one minute and when the disappointment fades, the pride will beam.

If you ask Will King, I’m sure he will say backing James Ellington is much more satisfying than bunging an Olympic Gold medallist a seven figure sum from an endless pot of money to witness a transparent smile with razor in hand.
When asked how he contributed to London 2012 he can proudly say he helped someone live their dream. It’s an honest partnership which oozes substance and credibility.

And whilst Ellington may be feeling down at the minute, he can tell his children how he was an Olympian and that title will never leave his side.

Now that is legacy.

Ash Turner

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Thanks Ash!  Turning to the headline of the blog, “It’s the Participation, Stupid” – well – I’m not just talking about the athletes’ participation in the Games.  I’m talking about the participation of the ENTIRE COUNTRY in the Games.  Bill Clinton famously coined “It’s the Economy, Stupid” in this successful bid to become President of the USA – focusing people on what mattered to them – money, jobs & security.  To secure a future legacy of the Olympic Games, we simply need to build on the PARTICIPATION and the future LEGACY of the British Public in “The Greatest Show On Earth”.  Already, we know that nearly all tickets to the Paralympics have sold out, because people want to take PART in the event, irrespective of the event they’re watching.  Indeed, Channel 4 are building up the Olympics as the trailer to the main event, the Paralympics!

Going forwards, in Stratford, East London we now have A) an amazing, green, eco-friendly and quite frankly cool, integrated sporting complex – surely the Headquarters of the UK Centre For Global Sporting Excellence.  B) we have Stratford East – the mega shopping centre, which will attract shoppers for many years to come.  And finally, C) we have the Media Centre – which (I believe) can be refitted to build on ‘Silicon Roundabout – Tech City’ to harbour future entrepreneurial startups and more, dovetailing them with sport and commerce.

Right now, everyone either wants to be A) a Gold winning athlete and/or B) a successful Entrepreneur.  Being an Entrepreneur is the new ‘royalty’ in terms of what you do in your working life.

Now we need to see participation in this.  A great coaching infrastructure for future sporting success (Rio 2016 – almost certainly one of the coolest places to host an Olympics, with better weather for sure ;0  And b, a business support infrastructure – via alternative investment AND business helpers/mentors (hence my Wingman project – as I like the Wingman descriptor way better than Mentor) to ensure our future start-ups have a gold medal chance on the world’s commercial stage.

So, UK Government – build on “The Goodwill of the Games” and put in place a 10-20 year infrastructure and investment strategy around sports & entrepreneurs, get the participation of world class athletes and entrepreneneurs and remember:

“Impossible IS Nothing.  Just DO IT.”

Will King