A legacy like never before
It was tempting, when looking into the recently published polling concerning our attitudes toward the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics, to write about the Olympic anniversary - the reopening of the stadium, the return of the Mobot, the repeat of Danny Boyle's brilliant opening ceremony on the BBC. But while there are countless positive lessons to be learned from the Olympic legacy, in truth, for marketers and communicators the most profound lessons should be taken now, one year on, from the Paralympic Games.
An investment in Britain
The public is clearly very happy with the Olympic legacy. There are good reasons for this: the pace at which the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park venues have been handed over is impressive; the new business generated internationally by British companies as a direct result of the Games is timely, given the lack of growth in the economy; the plethora of new ideas designed to capture the post-Games spirit, ranging from @joininuk to Ride London.
Between them, they show us that the effect of the Games endures and, collectively, they demonstrate that the London 2012 Olympics wasn't just "a party" - it was a sustained attempt to deliver on the promises made by the bid team in Singapore, most critically "to use the power of the Games to inspire change".
So, at a rational level, we are positive about London 2012. As a nation, we are proud of what we achieved and it has given us a new-found confidence that we can perform on a world stage. Wonderful, but collectively we did much more than that.
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The emotional legacy
The Paralympics changed the way we think. And, from this perspective, we don't need to look at the data to get a sense of what that means. A sold-out "Paralympic Super-Sunday" at the Anniversary Games made it clear that something extraordinary happened during summer 2012 and, in this sense, the way we now think about disability and Paralympic sport is the emotional legacy of the Games.
Stepping back, I would suggest four things fuelled this attitudinal shift. First, having a GB team of superhuman athletes - many of whom we had previously never heard of - ready to capture our hearts. Second, the thinking and planning that went into making the events happen. Third, the craft that went into engaging the public. And last, the fact that deep down the British public loves an underdog.
To understand the scale of the shift, it is important to state how far we have travelled. In the years before the Games, it was hard to see the public going much beyond the Olympics; the Paralympics were "not elite", "not real sport" and "not for people like me". I will never forget attending a particularly grim focus group in 2009 when it became clear just how complex our campaign would need to be. We knew we would have to tell a different story and, as a result, built a project-wide mantra: "operational integration, creative distinction".
Gradually, a group of people and their brands formed who became dedicated to delivering that distinction, between them executing a campaign that would build an emotional legacy perhaps without parallel. Sponsors chose the Paralympics out of conviction. BT came in early, Sainsbury's recruited Mr Beckham and Channel 4 went on to make the ad of the year/decade. Suddenly, the Paralympics looked elite and different and the public got on board.
Attitudes that transcend
YouGov recently published its findings on our attitudes to the Games, one year on. Perhaps most striking is just how mainstream our views have become. In the early years, we would be looking at a single-digit minority who "got" the Paralympics. Now we see widespread comprehension and positivity toward the movement and its importance in British life. The Games, and the momentum created since by the British Paralympic Association, have changed our perceptions forever.
There are many positive things for us all to learn, but for campaign planners this is about the fundamentals of how we campaign: brave investment decisions, brave creativity, brave briefs and flawless execution. And perhaps the biggest lesson of all is that the campaign is not over - it's still in full flow. That momentum is a lesson for us all.