Why APN Outdoor’s Olympics sponsorship is a big leap forward for the outdoor industry

After APN Outdoor signed a partnership deal with the Australian Olympic team, Mumbrella’s Alex Hayes sat down with APN boss Richard Herring and AOC COE Fiona De Jong to ask them what is in it for both parties?

While the new four-year deal between APN Outdoor and the Australian Olympic Committee might look, on paper, like a straight-forward media partnership, APN’s boss Richard Herring claims it is “a coming of age” for the company.

fiona de jong and richard herring apn olympics

In the past four years APN has been one of a number of outdoor brands in Australia to invest in digital signage for its various properties. And it is that investment which Herring says has made the new partnership possible.

“It’s a bit of a coming of age of the media,” he says. “The fact it’s changed so much, particularly with the digital screens in the last four years, it’s something we can actually do now.

“In the old world it was more difficult, but the way the Olympics operates and being able to put out current and spontaneous information on our Elite Screens and X-Trak TV, it’s very fitting for our business.”

Indeed the new deal sees outdoor recognised for the first time as a new broadcast medium by a major sporting body.

While it is a first of its kind for Australia, the UK and US Olympic teams having previously worked with outdoor media partners.

It effectively puts APN in the same bracket as Network Seven and News Corp as media partners for the Australian Olympic team. While no money has changed hands for these rights Herring said there is a substantial commitment in terms of man hours, creative and inventory which will be going in over the next four years from APN to push the Australian team.

And that more constant push is what Australian Olympic Committee CEO Fiona De Jong said attracted them to an outdoor partner, something which had cropped up as it underwent a brand refresh last year, which culminated in it launching a new visual identity a year out from the Rio Games.

AOC olympic logo

She explained: “What became obvious to us is we want that to connect with the everyday Australian – and want 23m Australians to feel connected to their Olympic team. We haven’t had the ability to do that as we can now in such a powerful way through this partnership.

“We’ve known what our team’s about but we want to share that with everyday Australians, and APN is almost an accidental interaction with Australians on their way to and from work and walking about our cities. So to be able to do that with everyday Australians in an everyday way is what we’re excited about.”

The brand partnership will go through many stages and span not just Rio but the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang and the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

One aspect of it will involve promoting athletes from the teams to make them more familiar to the public, as well as helping some of those from lesser-known sports to raise funds to get there.

“At the moment you can only really buy a ticket to an expensive dinner to help them, where if you’re an eight-year-old kid you might donate your $2 pocket money to the Olympic team, and we’d like to provide a framework to get them to do that and help them tell their stories,” she adds.

“If they feel emotionally and financially connected. It’s about uplifting the whole team and the future for young aspiring Olympians, because we’re about making those Olympic dreams come true and we can only do that through these partnerships.”

While Herring stresses it is “a great thing to do for the Australian public” he also acknowledges it gives APN a chance to showcase the capabilities of its new digital suite.

“One of our roles is not just to build these digital screens but to showcase and educate people in the way they can be used,” he says.

“I think traditionally we’ve always talked about fast food companies doing breakfast, lunch and dinner offers, but I think the opportunities creatively are far more reaching than that and we see advertisers using them in different ways. It’s just another way for us to demonstrate that.”

During the Games the public can expect to see teasers for upcoming events, medals tables and athletes being celebrated when they win medals.

Herring also said they had not ruled out the possibility of working with some of the other media partners such as Seven to help showcase live content from the Games at key moments. The 13-hour time difference between Eastern Australia and Rio will mean many of the Blue Riband events will happen morning during commuter times.

New tech opportunities: De Jong

New tech opportunities: De Jong

De Jong told Mumbrella the AOC also has other opportunities for new brand partners, particularly in areas around emerging technology.

“Being an Olympic year we’ve been lucky enough to secure most of our larger partners, but there are a still a few opportunities in categories which exist,” she said.

“Particularly in the technology space there’s new and emerging opportunities there, and it’s about us as a business looking for new opportunities there, maybe with a business that didn’t exist five years ago.

“In the technology space there’s a few – we have a partnership with Optus and there’s some new and emerging technologies like data management that might be of interest.”

Ultimately, Herring sums up the opportunity for APN as being able to tap into and help communicate something Australians go crazy for – sport.

“Australians are passionate about sport and if we can help that patriotism and push information to the Australian public it’s a great role we can play,” he adds.

Alex Hayes is editor of Mumbrella


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