Olympic windfall leaves a bitter legacy for Games losers
By Simon Nias Thursday, 26 July 2012
The Games generated a lot of business for UK print, but those that won work can't talk about it and many of those that didn't feel badly let down
Tonight the greatest sporting event in the world will kick off in Stratford, where the culmination of four years’ planning and preparation will be marked by the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games. Those living near an Olympic venue – not just in London, but across the country – cannot have failed to notice all the printed material that has been churned out for this once-in-a-lifetime event. From banners, bunting and building wraps, to posters, handbooks and point-of-sale displays, this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games have proved as much a celebration of print as of sporting excellence.
Most of this has been produced via the ‘look and feel’ contract, which has kept pretty much an entire sector busy since the beginning of June. As one such printer says: "There is no doubt that every wide-format printer in the country is flat out – everyone is near enough at full capacity." However, these printers – like all suppliers to the Games – cannot talk about their involvement, for that is the closely-guarded privilege of London 2012’s sponsors.
This means that if you want values, volumes or any other supply-side info from LOCOG, you can forget it. Which is a shame, because everyone knows who the suppliers are and gagging them as LOCOG has done means that the only printers able to talk openly about the Games are those for whom the experience has proved overwhelmingly negative – such as those on the industrial estates neighbouring the western edge of the Olympic Park in Fish Island and Hackney Wick.
One of these, Quad DM, has been forced to relocate, at its own expense, as a result of the disruption. "We were told by LOCOG not to worry because there would be a maximum of 4,000 extra pedestrians a day during the Olympics," says managing director Paul Edwards.
"We then got the model from Tower Hamlets that forecasts 76,000 a day. I don’t think we’ll be able to get in or out of here. There are two routes, one of which has been turned into a coach park with coaches due every two minutes and the other runs past Hackney Wick, which is going to be overflowing with pedestrians – how do you get a 40ft container of paper through that lot?"
Together with around 45 other local businesses, Quad DM spent £35,000 in legal fees "just to get LOCOG to come to the table" – at which point Edwards says they were told in no uncertain terms that there would be no compensation for loss of business or relocation costs.
Quad has since had to sell an array of offset print and fininshing kit, including a six-colour B1, at around £50,000 less than the asset value, and is in the process of moving to a shared site with another printer in Hainault.
Worse still, the firm has an outstanding 12 months on the lease at its current site, which it will have to pay – together with at least six months business rates – unless it can find someone to take over the lease. "All in, we’re looking at a £150,000 cost to the business from the Olympics, which is a lot of money for a printer with six staff," says Edwards.
While everyone in Britain wants London 2012 to be a success and for the British athletes to triumph at their home Games, the frustration that has arisen from LOCOG’s strict policing of its NDAs, allied to the alleged dismissive treatment of print SMEs that will be most impacted by the Olympics, has left a distinctly sour taste in the mouth and whatever the legacy for the area and for UK sport, for print it is looking disappointing at best. Just 31% of respondents to this week’s survey claim to have received any Olympic-related work, highlighting the lack of engagement with SMEs.
Greg Nugent, director of brand, marketing and culture at LOCOG said: "Over the last few years we have worked really hard to make sure that we dress up, as a nation, and celebrate the Games. We have what must be the world’s biggest set of Olympic Rings in Richmond Park, banners and bunting in Glasgow and now we turn to finishing the job with our venues. We look forward to creating a stunning back drop for the world’s greatest athletes."
What a shame it is that those responsible for producing that same backdrop cannot celebrate it and that LOCOG in creating what is no doubt a spectacular home for the Games has ridden roughshod over one of the former heartlands of print, driving firms like Quad DM out of the area for good. "We won’t come back," says Edwards. "Even if we wanted to the writing is on the wall for the whole area – I guarantee you that in a few years, where all these businesses are now will be flats and there won’t be any printing around here anymore."
- A vast amount of print has been produced for London 2012; however, exact figures have not been released and are unlikely to be before the end of the Games
- By far the biggest beneficiary has been the wide-format sector, which has produced all the outdoor display graphics, vehicle wraps and indoor signage
- The biggest losers have been print businesses based close to the venue but not close enough to be eligible for money to help with relocation, who will face incredible disruption over the next month
- At least one printer, Quad DM, was forced to move, at a cost of up to £150,000, as a result of the Games. According to the firm, LOCOG dismissed any claim for compensation or help with relocation
- Other sectors have reported minor upticks in ad-hoc work, but there has been no significant increase in printed promotions
- One reason for this is the highly litigious approach LOCOG has taken to unauthorised use of words or images relating to the Games
Has the run-up to the Games been profitable for UK print?
Managing director, Webmart
"We have seen very little Games-related activity, mainly because it seems a ‘big brand, big format’ event, with total control over the use of imagery and words relating to it. For those on the outside, there is a worry that if they do anything even tangentially connected to the event, they may get sued, so they’ve decided to avoid it. Hopefully the lull that we have experienced in the market in the past three months will be followed by a busy season."
Board member, Fespa UK Association
"A lot of print has been produced, but almost all of it has been in relatively small jobs and at very short notice. As with all projects, print seems to get stuck at the end, and with this volume that is a problem because it means you have to put on extra shifts and employ temporary staff. It’s excellent to have this work but it’s costing more to produce because of the short lead time. That said, our members are doing a superb job and we’re very proud because that print is the main thing many people will notice during the Games."
Managing director, Butler Tanner & Dennis
"The Olympics has had a positive impact on our business because we have won work that we would not have had on our presses if it were not for the event. We have at least three titles we expect to be printing after the Olympics and that, of course, is good news for us here at Butler Tanner & Dennis. The real test, however, is if these titles sell well enough to require us to carry out reprints. If that is the case, we will end of with a sustained workload thanks to the event rather than a brief spike in activity."
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