M&C Saatchi S&E land Australian Olympic Committee account

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 12 March 2019

M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment (S&E) has been appointed as the official creative communications agency for the Australian Olympic Committee’s (AOC) Tokyo 2020 campaign.

The appointment will see S&E, Saatchi's sports sponsorship, strategy, activation, PR, content creation and social agency, create the overarching communications platform and integrated campaign, tasked with "inspiring the nation" in the lead-up to and throughout the Tokyo Games.

The partnership sees S&E become an official partner of both the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Olympic Team, creating a campaign that will include multi-channel assets across TV, out-of-home, print and online.

Speaking to AdNews, S&E global CEO Steve Martin and managing director Jamie Gilbert-Smith said the account had not gone out to pitch, but the AOC instead approached S&E after seeing previous global and local work the agency had done around previous Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

Locally, the agency has created work for Olympic and Commonwealth Games partner brands including CommBank in 2012, Woolworths 2016/18 and Optus 2018.

Martin, who had previously managed global PR for Adidas, said the decision by the AOC to appoint its first dedicated communications agency was "bold and innovative", highlighting a bigger commitment to the upcoming Games.

"Talking about the Australian Olympic Committee from a global perspective and from a rights point of view, the appointment of a creative communications agency at a partner level puts more power behind us as an agency," Martin said.

"You can see also this becoming a benchmark for those sporting rights holders from other professional codes, working with the communication media industry much better and joining the dots because I think we're here to help actually through a pure passion."

As part of the arrangement, S&E will be tasked with driving interest in each sport, creating a "provocative message", which Gilbert Smith said will move away from "traditional" Olympic messaging.

He said the challenge the agency was going to have was creating a provocative campaign at scale that doesn't end up coming off as "vanilla", with "no clear" perspective on the importance of the event.

"I can't give too much away about the work but Olympic communications or advertising have been quite 'samey' at times, the old angle of 'pride partnership'. There's only so many proud partner campaigns you can have, it eventually can fall bit flat," he said.

"We don't want to end up doing something bland that appeals to everyone and no one. The challenge here is to have a very clear message and a strong call to action."

Jamie and SteveM&C Saatchi S&E's Steve Martin and Jamie Gilbert-Smith

Martin said where the appointment differs from other sporting codes in Australia, is the call to action isn't about driving ticket sales or focused on mass viewership, it's about promoting a sense of "national pride" and "everyday engagement" with the sports featured in the games.

He added that there will also be a push to target younger demographics, who he said don't currently view the Olympics in the same way as older generations.

"When that demo is constantly bombarded and they only have an attention span of seven seconds, it's hard to cut through that clutter anyway, and then you get something like the Olympics which really isn't relevant to their media mixture," Martin said.

"What will keep us up at night is not how do we generate short-term relevance for the Games over a two week period, it's about relevance for the entire the journey leading up to the event and then for the next four years after it ends."

Gilbert-Smith said going forward the agency will also work with the AOC's key stakeholders, including major sponsors and its broadcast partner, Seven.

He said the next stage will be going through "several rounds" of creative, culmination in a pitch to both the committee and sponsors, with the hope that the major brands will also back the overall message created by S&E.

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