As a born and bred Glaswegian the last couple of weeks have been something rather special. Never before, at least in my lifetime, has Glasgow been the focus of such positive attention and, most pleasingly, the attention was well deserved.
Closed streets, traffic ‘management’ and our unpredictable climate couldn’t dampen the fervour with which almost all Glaswegians met the Commonwealth Games. We embraced the notions of competition and sporting excellence and combined them with celebrating our shared humanity and doing your best, the former was planned the latter was spontaneous.
Better and more qualified writers than me will reflect on the ‘Games’, their legacy and lasting impact both near and far. So I thought we’d have a look at what brands have done well at the 20th Commonwealth Games.
The Commonwealth Games, like all large sporting events, had a variety of ‘official’ sponsors. The big sponsors included Emirates and SSE, both of who have enjoyed a high profile, particularly through the naming of the Emirates Arena and the Hydro, both venues enjoying wide coverage and praise.
In the city itself Ford have been omnipresent, their liveried C-Max people carriers have been everywhere ferrying competitors and officials around the city. Longines have also enjoyed a good profile, branding on the athletics’ bell as well as on all the clocks and timers at the venues made them very visible. BP and Virgin Media have been less obvious and less visible around the city.
Virgin’s association with Usain Bolt probably played a part in his presence here and the association between them looks like it’s mutually beneficial. The brand of Usain Bolt seemed to be in danger of some tarnish at one point but the big Jamaican proved himself to be a canny media operator and very quickly won the crowd over. His personality and his charisma is matched only by his athletic prowess, the watching crowds loved him. The 20 or so minutes after his races he spent posing for ‘selfies’, signing flags and high-fiving out stretched hands should ensure he continues to remain the biggest commercial draw in sport for a good while to come. A number of other competitors have given themselves a real profile too, that can only be good for their chances of securing sponsorship and financing. In Scotland people like Ross Murdoch, Eilidh Childs, Lynsey Sharp and Charlie Flynn have given themselves a great opportunity through their efforts and dedication.
Of the other official sponsors Irn Bru and the other Barr’s soft drinks enjoyed much coverage. Irn Bru has long had an association with Glasgow and whilst the orange bottle looked a little incongruous at official press conferences at first there can be little doubt it’s positioning will be of both short and long term benefit to Barr’s.
Our client Tunnock’s wasn’t an official sponsor, but they’ve also had a great Games. From the use of their iconic tea-cakes in the opening ceremony to being name-checked by countless writers and broadcasters searching for Scottish iconography Tunnock’s seemed to become part of the Games. We’re often asked what their secret is. Simply they produce a small selection of excellent products taking both pride and care in what they make, they work very hard to protect their brand whilst listening to their customers. Basically what every company should do.
I’m not sure any sport brands really stood out. I noticed Speedo’s seem to be back in vogue, which is fine if you are a young, fit international swimmer but if you aren’t… Let’s just hope that fashion doesn’t catch on again!
Many sports have done their brands no harm. The high profile ones like swimming and athletics both delivered and I expect an uptake in participation in clubs around the country will follow. Other sports to rise to the occasion include cycling, rugby sevens and gymnastics but really every sport involved has raised its profile and created an interest and understanding where one might have been lacking before.
Other perhaps less obvious brands to succeed for me include volunteering. The ‘Clydesiders’ a 15,000 strong army of red clad volunteers smiled, helped and encouraged everyone they came into contact with. They were a brilliant addition to the city and it’ll be interesting to see what their legacy is.
The BBC were pretty good too. Blanket coverage, some brilliant presenting and commentating, the BBC do big sporting occasions very well and this was no exception. Tonight At The Games was the best sport’s programme I’ve ever watched and became compulsory viewing in our house each night.
One brand that’s done itself a lot of good in my opinion is the brand of England. The sporting nature of the crowds to all countries was noticeable, but towards England and her athletes and competitors it was pronounced. England has some real stars and their presence here was appreciated and applauded, as it should be. All the ‘home’ nations tended to attract the support of the Glasgow crowd, particularly if Scotland didn’t have someone involved. It shouldn’t be remarkable that there seemed to be genuine warmth to our close neighbours but as anyone who has attended a football match at Hampden can attest it is. England also had the second best national anthem (Northern Ireland had the best) and it was played more often than any other nations.
The real brand winner though has been Glasgow. I’m a born and bred Glaswegian, I live and work in the city, I’m raising my family here too. I hope I’m not blind to its many short-comings, it’s not the greatest city in the world and it has a number of endemic problems, problems in my opinion that are avoidable and curable if only the will was there. Glasgow people tend to be cynical, self-deprecating and a little embarrassed by success. We tend to talk things down not up and don’t like anyone getting above what we perceive as ‘their place’. This after all is a city where the most popular landmark of recent years is a 19th century equestrian statue with a traffic cone on its head. No Eifel Towers or Golden Gates for us, casual, petty vandalism is what we choose as a defining civic image.
But Glasgow does have energy and Glaswegians still take an enormous pride in the city. It might be a cliché however it is no less true for that but Glasgow people are, by and large, welcoming to visitors. Those strands came together in spectacular fashion over the last couple of weeks. The city was alive with people from all over the world and its residents reacted with enormous positivity to that. The profile given to sports that don’t involve kicking a ball was also unprecedented, and the city embraced that. I personally watched New Zealand play Trinidad at table tennis and loved every minute of it. We’d great weather and terrible weather but the energy and positivity remained. I really hope that will remain now that our roads are reopening and the Clydesiders have gone. We’ll see. What I’m sure about is anyone who visited the city will leave with a broadly positive impression, anyone who watched on TV will have seen enthusiastic and friendly spectators against a backdrop of a city moving out of its post industrial period. Parts of Glasgow are beautiful and parts aren’t, but even I saw parts of the city through new eyes recently and I liked what I saw.