London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay: Branding & Marketing in Leeds

Like every other Olympic Games in modern history, this year’s Olympic Games which is being held in London has also been preceded by a Torch Relay.

London saw a brief glimpse of the Olympic Torch four years ago during Beijing 2008 torch relay. Under the motto “One World, One Dream”, the Beijing torch passed through dozens of countries including the UK on April 6th 2008. This gave us a small taster of what we’d see in this year’s torch relay.

With London 2012, games organisers have decided that rather than having an international Torch Relay around the world, the Torch Relay should instead focus upon showcasing the best of Britain – the landmarks, the communities and the local heroes. The Torch is currently making it’s way across the UK through 1,019 communities being carried by community heroes. Each day’s relay culminates in an evening concert and celebration to celebrate the arrival of the torch.

A vital aspect of putting on the modern Olympic Games is the sponsorship deals that come with it and the commercial aspects of the Torch Relay. For the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, there are three Presenting Partners: Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung.

Along with several other Mob!lers, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Torch Relay festival in Leeds. In this article, I explore the commercial aspects of the Torch Relay and compare how Coca-Cola and Samsung are marketing themselves around the Temple Newsam festival site in Leeds.


Coca-Cola have been a key sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1928 and are one of the main Presenting Partners of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

With Coca-Cola being the world’s most valuable brand according to the Interbrand list of “Top 100 Global Brands” (it has a brand value of $71.8bn), it’s somewhat a surprise that Coca-Cola have spent so much money on the Olympics and sponsoring the Torch Relay. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine there’s anybody in the UK hasn’t tried Coca-Cola before. This leaves the obvious question of how sponsoring the Torch Relay will help to increase the customer base of Coca-Cola and improve their brand value.

The Olympic Torch celebrations at Leeds were fully Coca-Cola branded. This involved the naming rights for the event as well as branding the entire stage with Coca-Cola signage.

From looking at Coca-Cola’s activities around the site, it’s clear that Coca-Cola are aiming to associate their brand with fun, spontaneity and their tagline of “Enjoying Life’s Moments”. The stated purpose of Coca-Cola’s marketing is to “create happiness” in an otherwise regular day. To this extent, Coke employed improvisation performers around the site who immersed festival visitors in their own bizarre and random experiences. Here’s a video I recorded of Stacey playing invisible basketball in her Coca-Cola “Moment of Happiness”:

As a bizarre experience that you’re likely to tell all of your friends about, this “moment of happiness” certainly ranks high on the list.

Aside from the “Moments of Happiness” being performed around the site, Coca-Cola also distributed ice cold drinks free of charge to punters in special Torch Relay souvenir bottles.

Coca-Cola placed one of their trucks near the entrance of the (rather muddy) Temple Newsam festival site in Leeds. Punters were offered a free limited edition “Olympic Torch” bottle of Coca-Cola.


Samsung has been one of the world’s fastest growing consumer brands in the past decade. It is currently ranked 17th in the Interbrand Index with a brand value of $23.4bn – a figure that is aiming to improve upon with their involvement in the Olympics. Samsung began their Olympic journey as a domestic sponsor of the Seoul 1988 games and continues as a sponsor of the Olympics during London 2012. They are also a presenting partner of the London 2012 Torch Relay. According to Samsung, the aim of their Olympic involvement is to see “not just immediate return but long-term returns in increased awareness and brand preference”.

With the Samsung Galaxy S III being the official smartphone of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Samsung were making a lot of effort to showcase the phone to punters at the Olympic Torch Festival in Leeds. A section of the festival site was dedicated to showing off the Galaxy S III with festival goers queuing up for the chance to have a caricature drawn of them using the Galaxy Note and to have their photo taken with the Olympic Torch. This extends upon the Galaxy Note Studio concept, which Samsung first showed off in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress 2012, by taking it on the road to follow the torch.

Samsung have taken the “Galaxy Note Studio” on tour with the Olympic Torch. First shown off in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress 2012, the Galaxy Note Studio allows punters to have a free caricature drawn of them on the Galaxy Note.

During the performances themselves, Samsung presented dance act Twist and Pulse from Britain’s Got Talent as well as the dance troupe Diversity. Both acts went down well with the crowds in Temple Newsam with a panoramic photograph being taken of everybody using the Galaxy S3 at the culmination of the event. Event goers have been encouraged to tag themselves on the Samsung website where the photographs have been posted online.

Samsung presented ‘Twist and Pulse’ from Britain’s Got Talent at the Torch Relay celebrations as well as ‘Diversity’.

With their Olympic marketing activities, Samsung are hoping to boost awareness of their two flagship devices, the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note. This can be seen in the way that they promote their products around the site.

Whereas Coca-Cola’s marketing activities tend to be more experiential and less about products, Samsung’s on-site marketing activities are more product-focussed with the aim of showcasing their flagship devices. Taking a panoramic photograph of the crowd using a Galaxy S III was a great way to highlight one of the USPs of the device whilst also encouraging users to visit Samsung’s website to learn more about their handsets. The Galaxy Note Studio was also a fun concept that highlights one of the USPs of the Galaxy Note’s S-Pen stylus and gives punters a great souvenir to take away with them.

Review: Coca-Cola VS Samsung

The difference in how Coca-Cola and Samsung have marketed their products is primarily due to the differences in the types of products that they produce.

For Coca-Cola, the main aim of their marketing activity is to create a brand association with the small surprises and “moments of happiness” in everyday life. Everybody has tried Coca-Cola at least once in their life: it’s a simple product that doesn’t have any pros, cons or technical specifications. The key way of driving additional sales of the product is to create that “subconscious desire” or “craving” for the product. Creating random “moments of happiness” across the festival site was a great way of embedding Coke in the public conciousness.

For Samsung, the marketing challenge is much tougher. There are hundreds of different mobile phones out there from lots of different manufacturers – each with their own pros and cons. Different phones have different designs, different specifications and different unique selling points – essentially they’re complicated products and the key challenge is standing out from the crowd. At the Torch Relay festival in Leeds, I felt that Samsung did a great job of highlighting the USPs (unique selling points) of their product in a fun and easy-to-approach way.

Christine and Stacey showing off their souvenir Coke Bottles, Lloyds TSB lanyards and Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones.

The Olympic Torch is due to arrive at the Olympic Stadium during the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. This will be on Day 70 of the Relay (27th July 2012).

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