Home Business NewsBusiness Colin Stanbridge: Memory of London 2012 is fading fast, we must act NOW

Colin Stanbridge: Memory of London 2012 is fading fast, we must act NOW

by LLB Editor
19th Jun 13 9:13 am

The London Chamber boss on what we must do to maximise the Olympic opportunity

We’ve asked more than 30 of London’s business leaders how they think Britain can create economic growth, opportunity and innovation. Read the full publication online: Securing Britain’s Future.

Every economist and politician agrees that exporting is key to economic recovery in the long-term. Yet we are still not doing enough of it, among small companies especially.

The government and UKTI need to be targeting small companies with campaigns that help them understand they can do it. That means marketing and advertising campaigns, but also getting them face-to-face with exporting experts. Many small companies think they have nothing to export, but actually we’ve seen plenty of examples when we get experts together with small companies and show them that they definitely do, whether that’s services and goods. We need to a real grass-roots approach.

We also need to be aware that the wonder of the Olympics is fading fast in other countries’ memories. We have only three years before the Rio Olympics. After Rio, it will be less easy to get people to remember the London Olympics. So we urgently need to make sure we’re not wasting the £9bn we spent on hosting the Olympics. The Games were a huge marketing campaign for Britain and all the things we can do. Now we need to act.

At the Chamber, we are working with member companies large and small to mount an Olympic road-show initiative. The plan is to go to countries hosting big sporting events, saying we’d like to share the lessons of London and introduce you to the companies, big and small, that made it such a huge success. We’re involved in private sector initiatives to do that, but I don’t see similarly visible initiatives from government happening. Why aren’t there?

There are easy wins for us here that we are not capitalising on. The Prime Minister gave a speech when he first came into office saying embassies need to become business embassies. British embassies do a lot of work, but we’re missing opportunities to encourage exporting. Take the British embassies in the top 50 countries we want to export to. Why doesn’t every single one have an exhibition with information saying: this is how we built the Games, and these are the British companies large and small that can provide goods and services to you?

It seems odd that when I walked into the British embassy in Santiago in January, there was a Rolls-Royce outside promoting the UK, but no exhibition. When I was in the British Consulate in Chennai, it would have been great to see something. You could put together an exhibition that needn’t be huge – you could have video and a stand for as little as £1,000 or so. But it would be the first thing that any businessperson walking into an embassy sees. It would hit them in the face and remind everyone it was British and British-based companies that achieved the London Olympics.

Initiatives like that would mean we wouldn’t lose impetus, which I fear we are now. We need to sell Britain abroad in a tactical way. We need to go out of our way to market ourselves, not just mention our achievements during the Olympics in passing.

There are 10 or 11 big international sporting events each year across the world, at least. We should compile a list of the cities bidding for each one and say to them we want to come and share the lessons we learnt from being in a big city building a big sporting event.

We should showcase what we did in a way that’s not just a lecture, but instead take a venue – maybe an embassy or local chamber of commerce – and show spine-tingling videos of how good the London Olympics were. Then host a series of workshops, in which we would share our insights about hosting the Olympics: the legal complications, the master planning, how you deal with branding regulations, how you bid for contracts, how you deal with all the bureaucracy, and so on. Events wouldn’t even have to last a full day – you could do it in a few hours, so everyone could be in and out quite quickly.

All these lessons would be explained by the people and companies who were responsible for making each part work. In any given city, the public officials responsible for the bid would be the primary audience, but you’d also invite local businesses hoping to work on the event. If that city’s bid was successful, British companies could then form partnerships with those local businesses. Partnerships are particularly important for small businesses that would otherwise find it very difficult to win that business in a foreign city. If in the end that city’s bid was not successful, all British businesses that attended the event have forged relationships there anyway.

Our organisations that worked on the Games have invaluable insights for other cities looking to host major sporting events. Take the torch relay, for example. It brought the country together in an outpouring of support that was key to creating the atmosphere of the whole Olympics. But if another city had never hosted a sporting event on that scale before, they wouldn’t know importance of something like that, nor how to host it. It’s about sharing and showcasing the immense knowledge we’ve gained as a city.

London has a fantastic story to tell. But we’re in danger of not realising how important the knowledge we’ve gained is. We need to act now to capitalise on the fantastic exporting opportunities the London Olympics opened up for us.

Key points:

  • We need to act now to capitalise on the immense knowledge we’ve gained as a city
  • British embassies should feature exhibitions showcasing our achievements during the Games
  • Roadshows in cities bidding for major events would open up opportunities

We’ve asked more than 30 of London’s business leaders how they think Britain can create economic growth, opportunity and innovation. Read the full publication online: Securing Britain’s Future

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