I was in a black cab on my way to a lunch meeting with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and got what is now the usual rant from the driver: "Olympic organisers don't give a damn about local businesses. Black cab drivers are the backbone of British tourism and have been sidelined in favour of a fleet of BMW-driving subcontractors. And look at this - got this through the post on Saturday; 70 pages of road changes to learn by Wednesday. And look, it doesn't even say it's printed in the UK. So much for the government's 'Buy British' campaign. What a total waste of money."
Well, I’m pretty sure it was printed in the UK, but his attitude sums up the white-knuckle-ride relationship we have had with the Olympics. First the huge disappointment that the £6m ticket requirement was to be printed in the US, then the infamous sticker books printed in China.
So we banded together – trade associations, Unite and individual companies lobbying LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton, Boris Johnson, the government and any MP that would listen. And we seemed to be making progress as work started to arrive at print sites up and down the country. It’s fair to say that most of it appears to be coming from the publishers and brand owners and not the Olympic committee, but of the 500 respondents to a recent BPIF survey, of the 112 who had tendered, 90% had been successful. So why, when we have the head of one of the UK’s largest printing groups saying trade is the worst he has known in his career, did so few printers bid for Olympic work?
The answers are no doubt complex; the tendering process for many SMEs was seen by many as being far too onerous, other businesses may have lost confidence in government-associated tendering, and finally, the Olympic committee’s seeming subservience to big-brand sponsors has lost the hearts and minds of SME businesses.
The Olympics is a massive marketing opportunity; however, outlawing the carrying of individual company logos and the petty restrictions on companies from celebrating the fact that they have won Olympic work has undermined any gains.
The danger of becoming a slave to a small number of big sponsors is that you alienate an awful lot of other people along the way, and, just maybe, some of the drop off in print volumes over the past few months is a retaliation from other advertisers not wanting to muddle their campaign messages with the Olympic hullabaloo. The real proof of the pudding will be in the paper volumes for June, July and August.
But as they say if you are not in it, you can’t win it. So, when the Olympics are over we will lobby to get every ounce of support for UK print to fight off the challenge of government convenience tendering, banned offshore paper impacting far eastern imports, etc. We must ensure that our operations are world class in design capability, technology implementation and most importantly we must win the hearts and minds of all of our stakeholders by convincing them with hard data of the power of print to drive their business growth.
– Kathy Woodward, chief executive, BPIF