Sport is linked with great emotions. It appeals to a huge variety of human feelings: determination, pride, joy, hope, disappointment and sometimes anger. With all these attributes, it conveys an incredibly dynamic message. The Olympic Games reflect the message of brand Omega: speed and precision, endurance and performance.” This is exactly what Nicholas Hayek; President of the Swatch Group said in Great Olympic Moments in Time, a book which is devoted to the master watchmaker’s close ties with sport and the Olympic Movement.
Olympics is the time when various nations come together despite their differences — to celebrate the spirit of sport. While sport is the primary focus, it has evolved into an interesting ground for intense marketing. One of the reasons that sport is so influential in our society is probably because it is one of the best illustrations of human potential. That is enough reason why global corporations are betting big on what’s being called the biggest Olympics to date.
In 1932, Omega was appointed Official Timekeeper for the first time at the Olympic Games at Los Angeles, a position that it will hold until and including the 2012 Olympics in London. For 75 years, the Swiss watch industry has been entrusted with this role. In an interview with BrandLine, Christophe Berthaud, CEO, Swiss Timekeeping, lists the plans of the brand for the Beijing Olympics.
Excerpts from the interview:
Omega has been involved with Olympics since 1932. Can you brief me on what the brand has done so far? Can you tell us more about the brand’s link with sport and why Omega associates itself so much with sport?
At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, we will be serving as Official Timekeeper for the 23rd time. In 1932, in Los Angeles, Omega became the first company ever to be entrusted with the timekeeping for every Olympic sport.
To see how Olympic timekeeping has evolved, it’s interesting take note of the 30 chronograph stopwatches and the lone watchmaker we deployed then. This time around, our 450 professional timekeepers and data handlers will be supported by more than a 1,000 trained local volunteers. They’ll be using some 420 tonnes of equipment including the scoreboards and sophisticated timekeeping equipment.
Omega’s relationship with sport is a natural one: our timekeeping activities are not limited to the Olympic Games. We are involved in some of the most high-profile sporting events in the world each year and we have been behind the development of much of the technology used in sports timekeeping. The fact that so many of our brand ambassadors come from the world of sport is logical given the role that Omega plays in international competition.
Has Omega made some innovations with time-keeping this time? Can you please elaborate on the same?
We have unveiled the newest generation of our famous photofinish camera — the Scan’O’Vision Star — that takes more than 2,000 images each second with a high resolution 2048 pixel vertical line, and the corresponding time is displayed with each picture.
Omega will be using global positioning system (GPS) technology to monitor and display the relative positions of the competitors in rowing as well as in canoeing and sailing events.
A range of new, refined virtual television services will be used. Virtual graphics adapted specifically for the needs of athletics, swimming, rowing/canoeing and sailing will allow a broad array of information to be provided on-screen.
Three-dimensional track introductions will make it possible to have virtual introductions to the tracks and courses used in marathon, cycling events, sailing, the triathlon and cross-country equestrian events.
The GPS signals provided to TV broadcasters will allow viewers to visualise the location of competitors in real time while a contest is taking place.
The fact that the Olympics is taking place in Beijing has had some implications for the design of the scoreboards being used there. The scores, results and announcements will be displayed not only in English, but in Chinese. This will ensure that the locals are fully informed in their own language of the results of every event.
How is the strategy different this time around?
In terms of our timekeeping, the strategy is consistent: to deliver the best possible performance to the International Olympic Committee and to the greatest athletes in the world. We intend to deliver flawless timekeeping and data handling and we will do everything in our power to help our Chinese hosts fulfil their desire to make these among the best Olympic games of all time. The Olympic Games are rare in that they bring together almost all nations in the world. We are proud to be able to contribute to this communication.
Tell us more about the advertising and marketing undertaken to promote the Olympics series watches.
Our Olympic Limited Edition watches were released on certain countdown dates leading up to the Olympic Games, starting one year in advance of the opening ceremony and continuing on 288 days, 188 days and 88 days before the start of the games, reflecting the fact that the number 8 is seen as fortuitous in China (the Opening Ceremony was held on 08/08/08). These watches have been extensively promoted at our flagship stores around the world. They will also be available at our boutique in the Omega pavilion in Beijing.
We also have the Timeless collection of Olympic-themed chronographs which have some special Olympic details. This collection also includes the Speedmaster 5-Counters, the first watch ever to feature five sub-dials on its dial; these are positioned in the shape of the Olympic rings. Again, these chronographs have enjoyed excellent press coverage and are promoted at the Omega boutiques and retailers.
We have two television commercials in worldwide distribution, which include images of one of the watches from the Timeless Collection.
Can you elaborate more on the Beijing Olympic deal?
While we don’t communicate the details of our professional deals, we are happy to say that we have signed a long-term contract with the IOC, which means we will be extending our Olympic timekeeping activities to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the London 2012 Olympic Games.
How is it different to sell to brand-conscious Chinese? What are the challenges involved?
Omega has been present in China since 1895 and we have enjoyed substantial popularity there for many years. Their brand consciousness is an advantage for us because brand awareness of Omega is high and our values are well-known: we are a 160-year-old company built on the foundations of innovative technology and design excellence.