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Is Olympic sponsorship a marathon or a sprint?

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, January 2012 – December 2013, average quarterly sample n = 5,014 Australians 14+

McDonald’s and the Commonwealth Bank were the big winners at the 2012 London Olympics—but reflected glory can be fleeting, Roy Morgan’s long-running sponsorship awareness research shows.

In the lead-up to the London Olympics in 2012, 22% of Australians readily associated one or more companies with the Olympics. Once the Games started, this bounced sharply to 33% during the July-September quarter. Once it was all over, our overall association of companies with the Olympics lingered through to the end of the year (29% in October to December), but then quickly disappeared and by the end of 2013 was back to where it was before the event (22%). 

% of Australians who readily associated one or more companies with the Olympics

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, January 2012 – December 2013, average quarterly sample n = 5,014 Australians 14+

Association of McDonald’s with the Olympics Games just about tripled from 5% in the full quarter immediately preceding the London Games (April to June 2012) to 14% while it was happening (July to September). One year later (July to September 2013), and 6% of Australians still readily associated McDonald’s with the Olympics.

During the London Games, three companies were each cited as being associated with the Olympics by 7% of Australians: Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, and Coca-Cola.

Prior to the London Games, Qantas was already well associated with the Olympics—on a par with McDonald’s (5%). The quadrennial event itself, therefore, seemed to matter less than the national airline’s long-term association with the Games—also demonstrated by the continuing association well after London had finished.

Conversely only 2% of Australians readily associated the Commonwealth Bank with the Olympics before London—with the event itself (and the bank’s concurrent advertising campaign) generating a more than three-fold increase in association. However this did not last, and a year later the bank was back down to 2% (and today it’s even lower with just 1 in 100 people connecting Commonwealth Bank to the Olympics).

Akin to the Commonwealth Bank, only 2% of Australians associated Telstra with the Olympics before London, and it was back to that a year after it. But unlike the big gain for bank, Telstra’s association level rose to just 4% during the event.

Now, in our latest data (January to March 2016), McDonald’s, Qantas, and Coca-Cola are each  readily associated with the Olympics by 4% of Australians.

% who readily associated companies with the Olympics before London, during, after, and now

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, Before sample n = 5,440 (Apr-Jun 2012); During sample n = 5,554 (Jul-Sept 2012); One year later sample n = 4,872 (Jul-Sept 2013); Now sample n = 3,542 (Jan-Mar 2016) Australians 14+

Telstra ended its Olympic sponsorship agreement last year, and is instead promoting free access for its mobile customers to the ‘Olympics on 7’ app, part of Seven West Media’s Olympic broadcasting rights. 

Optus took up the mantle as the ‘official telecommunications partner’ of the Australian Olympic team with a 10-year deal. As of now, Australians make virtually no association between Optus and the Olympics.

Michele Levine, CEO – Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Around half of Australians say they will tune in to watch the Rio Olympics, and sponsors have spent up big to be associated with the event and promote themselves in what is arguably the world’s most prestigious marketing context. During the last Games in London in 2012, one in three Australians readily associated at least one company with the Olympics.

“While many more than this might be able to say which companies’ ads they’d seen during the Games, or which Olympics-related promotions they can recall, the true test of successful sponsorship is just how readily people make the connection without prompting—and then of course how that association impacts upon purchasing behaviours and attitudes.    

“Roy Morgan’s sponsorship research is designed to deliver true unfiltered and unprompted estimates of how many Australians readily associate companies with a whole range of sporting codes and specific events, including the Olympics.

“This allows sponsors, marketers and the sports governing bodies themselves to develop a comprehensive matrix of sponsorship ROI over time, correlating association levels with ardent and casual viewers, current and potential customers, other sponsors and other events.” 

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%