Olympics and Paralympics deliver outdoor advertising boost

Spending on billboards, posters, taxis, buses and tube expected to be up more than 30% in three months to end of September

The outdoor sector is set to be the biggest advertising winner of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, with spending on media including billboards, posters, taxis, buses and the London Underground up more than 30% year on year in the period including the London 2012 Games.

In the three months to the end of September, outdoor is expected to enjoy its largest ever year-on-year surge, which will continue throughout the Paralympics starting later this month.

While there has been some “Olympic avoidance” by brands that usually run campaigns in July and August, the void has been more than filled by the battle between official London 2012 sponsors and their rivals jockeying for consumer attention on outdoor sites.

Media buying industry sources report that Nike, a master of attempting to get one over on rival and official Olympic sponsor Adidas with ambush campaigns, is set to be the biggest spending non-official advertiser in the outdoor sector across both the Olympic and Paralympic Games periods.

Sir Martin Sorrell’s Group M predicts that the UK outdoor advertising industry will make more than £920m in gross revenues this year, or almost £740m net when agency commission fees are excluded from the spend figures. This is the biggest year for the sector since the pre-recession levels of 2008.

“Non-sponsors like Nike have used Westfield Stratford City’s digital screens to showcase their products to the millions passing through during this period,” said Jason Cotterrell, country director for CBS Outdoor UK. “Overall, the Games have been an excellent back drop to showcase outdoor advertising … but it would also be true to say that we have seen Olympic avoidance from some advertisers that we would normally expect to see in July and August.”

Outdoor media that have done particularly well include ads on taxis and bus sides – Transport for London allowed about 150 buses to be branded instead of the usual 20 to 30 – as well as Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

Channel 4, the Paralympics TV broadcaster, has also upped its spend on outdoor advertising by 50%.

The broadcaster’s digital campaign is running across all 90 of the cross-track projectors on the London Underground, which will keep commuters updated with sports news and medal tallies during the Paralympic period.

However, there are sites that appear to have missed out on the outdoor advertising spending boom across London.

The most high-profile site spurned so far is a full wrap of Canary Wharf tower, which initially carried a price tag of more than £5m. Despite reductions, it failed to sell.

In January, London Olympic advertising regulations were relaxed to help fuel the sluggish sale of media space in prime locations beside venues.

This prompted organisations including charities, tourism bodies, local councils as well as films, books and West End shows to book campaigns. More than half of what is referred to as prime “vicinity” advertising slots has been sold to non-Olympic sponsors.

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