The Cannes Debate: There were stars but no sparkles

By , Seminars, Cannes | In Advertising | June 23, 2012
The Cannes Debate this year turned out to be a friendly affair compared to the past few years. The main attraction this year was Brazilian footballer Ronaldo.

There were star elements in this year's Cannes Debate, but there were no sparkles like the past few years, when WPP chairman Sir Martin Sorrell grilled fellow marketers.

This time, it was more of a friendly chat between Sorrell and his two guests - Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee and Brazilian football star, Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima.

Cannes 2012

Both Sorrell (Ogilvy) and Ronaldo have formed a company which will deal in sponsorship deals for two major sporting events -- the FIFA World Cup in 2014, followed by the Brazil Olympics in 2016.

Sorrell started on a light note when he asked the two sportsmen about their best and worst moments, to which they had some usual answers.

But the big point that Sorrell raised was the economic implications of the London Olympics on the host nation. He said that there was criticism from a few quarters, which question the huge spend at the time of economic crisis. So, in retrospect, was it a right decision?

Coe replied that even if he knew that there would be an economic crisis at the time of bidding for the Olympics, he would have said 'yes'.



Sir Martin Sorrell

According to him, apart from the social and other dividends, the economic dividend from Olympics was profound.

He said that more than 500 billion pounds have been spent in developing the city and East London. However, there are more than 40,000 people who have got employment. He said that the Olympics not just creates jobs but safeguards jobs as well.

Coe cited the example of the Barcelona Olympics, which after the 1992 Olympics generates 20 per cent of the city's revenue from tourism.

On the social impact, Coe said that there were 25,000 schools under the Olympics Educational Programme and around 3.4 million more kids were playing sports. His estimate is that around 6.5 million people are involved in life enhancing activity.

When Ronaldo was asked about the expectations from the two sporting events that are supposed to happen in Brazil, he also talked about the developing infrastructure in the two cities.

He said, "The city of Rio, my home town, is getting an upheaval. The creation of a top end system of transportation and the overall restructuring of infrastructure created lots of jobs."

However, Ronaldo expressed his concern over the fact that while the world was looking at sponsoring these two events, what he was looking for was sponsorship deals for the local football clubs in Brazil, which needed support.

He said, "The problem is that companies want to sponsor large scale events but do not support small sporting clubs."

When asked about the importance of corporate governance in sports, Coe said, "Corporate governance gives a direction as the growth and speed at which football is growing is massive."

Coe said, "It's the duty of the organisers to ensure fair play in the game. One has to ensure that it's a legitimate sport and there are no issues like match fixing."

When asked about the concerns on the Brazil Olympics, he said that Brazil is a democratic country but it's slow to take decisions. "The power of Olympics is that it can change the misconceptions," he added.

On the role of social media, the panel agreed that it will play a major role in this year's Olympics. During the Beijing Olympics, there were 35,000 tweets a day, but this time they are expecting 57 million tweets a day. "Almost every person will be a journalist," Coe said.

At the end of the conversation, as a piece of advice, Coe said to Ronaldo, "When you deliver the games, remember what you said in the bid. As a country you will be judged continuously."

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