Oystercatchers Club | Sept 2012 | James Whitehead | CEO | JWT

Oystercatchers Club | Sept 2012 | James Whitehead | CEO | JWT

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James Whitehead_CEO_JWTJames Whitehead: Good evening. So I’m not sure how many of you have been a sort of member of a live audience on a live TV show recently. So whether that is a game show, or whether that is a chat show. And I think that I am the warm-up act this evening before some of the main sponsors who have done a brilliant job for us all over the Olympics come and talk to us about what they have been doing. So if I am the warm-up act, then I’m afraid you are the warm-up audience. So there is an expectation that you should express that. I don’t have applause cards, but if I did I’d be using them. And so I am encouraging you to express that Olympic fervour as I get to key points through talking about the mood of the nation over the last nine months or so. So let’s cast our minds back to how Brits would generally feeling about the Olympics at the start of 2012. Can you remember that? Mutterings along the lines of “look what good it did Greece” and scorn that we’d been albatrossed with the monumental cost in the middle of a double dip recession. You know – very serious concerns about the threat of a terrorist strike. “Watch London games from Paris, it is safer and cheaper,” headlined the Sunday express. My favourite from the sun, who headlined the front page with “oops” early on in the year. And at work our admin team were talking of the need for Y2K style stockpiling of water and baked beans whilst even at home my wife, responding to talk of watching the likes of Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, with comments of “who?” Or even “and why is that interesting?” So against a backdrop of media doom mongering and a general sense that Brits were perhaps not as positively engaged with the Olympics as the price tag should require, we at JWT were curious to track and understand how the British public’s feelings and reactions to the games might evolve over the course of the year.

James Whitehead: So starting in February, Maria and her team in business intelligence set up a monthly Olympic mood Tracker – asking 500 Brits up and down the country first of all how excited they were about the games, secondly, whether they think the games are a good thing for Britain, a thirdly on a scale of one to 10, how proud you to be British? So, as you will probably remember, Mark was a bit of a scorcher as we poured into our gardens and parks to enjoy the sunshine. Naturally, this raised everyone’s spirits, creating an early and slightly over exuberant burst of excitement and positively towards the games. The percentage of people agreeing or strongly agreeing that they were excited about the games jumped nearly 10% from a starting point of 40 up to 50%. And those agreeing to or strongly agreeing that the games were a good thing for Britain leapt over 10% as well to about 60%. Excellent. So the starter’s gun had been fired and there we were, all racing towards the finish line, albeit a bit too sunburned for early March with pints of Pimms in our hands. Now, Britain could well be described as the nation of the underwhelmed with the default setting of “moan”. In a separate survey that we run this year, which we published, moaning comes in fourth in the top 10 typically British characteristics. And that comes behind traditional, self-deprecating, stiff upper lip. So by the time the sun shine had quite correctly taken its hat back off and exited state left in early April, the press were once again getting the bits between the teeth and we were back into the normal swing of things. April and May saw a reassuringly characteristic dip of negativity and moaning. Concerns resurfaced about security and the spectre of fortress London. On the one hand, there were errors of oversold tickets and on the other hand, frustration and anger those who couldn’t get their hands on any. There was a growing feeling that Britain wouldn’t and couldn’t actually pull off the games and that our attempts to do so were pouring billions down the Olympic drain.

James Whitehead: The Independent identified Olympic moaning as a new national sport. The international press, such as the New York Times and De Speigel could hardly believe how unexcited we were. By the end of May our excitement and believe that the Olympics were a good thing for Britain had fallen back to the levels recorded at the start of the year and the early burst had turned out to be a bit of a false start. But fear not, Lord Coe was only too right back in 2011 he said “the nature of British people is that they don’t get overly excited about things too quickly.” A cocktail of Euro 2012 football, TV screens filled with flag-waving crowds at the Jubilee and the Olympic and sponsors marketing machines cranking up into fifth gear did the trick and by June, the feelings and noise of positivity were drowning out the doom mongers. Those now excited about the Olympic games back over 50% and nearly 2/3 of the country believed that the games were a good thing for Britain. And as we all know, and experienced, there has been no looking back ever since. With the Olympics now in full swing, the disaster scenario is not to be seen – even if G4S had a very good punt in it. A successful opening ceremony to kick it all off and team GB racking up the gold medals, Olympic fervour gripped the nation. Those excited rocketed to 81% – double the 41% back in February. And the percentage of those believing that the games would be good for Britain also leapt to 81%. What was particularly good to see was that it was the 18 to 34-year-old bracket that were reacting the most positively. 87% of them were excited about the games and the percentage of that age group that thought that the games would be good for Britain had ballooned from 56% in February to 91% in August.

James Whitehead: If one of the key objectives was to inspire a new generation, then it certainly looked like that was being achieved. I also wanted to add that, counter to TGI data that shows women generally been less enthusiastic about the majority of sports, when it comes to the games women have been equally as enthusiastic as the men. Now, after the Olympic closing ceremony we threw in an additional question on what impressed people the most. It’s of little surprise that people have been most excited by team GB’s performance and our brilliant athletes. Scoring top at 8.6 on an “I’m impressed with” scoring scale of 1-10. For now, athletes are our new rock stars and with great back stories of self-sacrifice and triumphs over an adversary, they are potentially highly convincing and credible brand ambassadors. 79% of our 500 panel agreed with us and for now 65% would rather see brand activity, featuring an athlete than a celebrity or a Premier league footballer. As Boris said, and I’m glad you didn’t have the same quote I did,” “you showed every child in this country that success is not just about talent and luck, but about grit and guts and hard work. And you showed fantastic grace in victory and amazing courage in defeat.” The opening ceremony, the volunteers, the military stepping in to help sort out the G4 S disaster, and the TV coverage, all highly impressed as well, with scores of around seven or 8/10. Overall, the Olympic games, scored an average of 8.4 for success with over 60% of people scoring them a nine or 10. Pretty good.

James Whitehead: Now, for anyone here from Sainsbury’s in particular, you will be glad to hear that the positivity has remained high, during and after the Paralympics too. Whilst initially not quite at the levels just after the Olympics, excitement during the Paralympics were still 10% higher than it was in July – just before the Olympics started. But notably, within that, the percentage of those that strongly agreed to being excited was actually 10% higher than it was before. And again, 76% of people think that the Paralympics are a good thing for Britain – 16% higher than pre- the Olympics. So here we go, the reading that we have taken the last 24 hours, which is the final one, going from 60 to 73, has the percentage of those claiming to be excited after 73% and incidentally that reading is at 75% for the women – so well done the women. And the percentage of those thinking that it is a good thing for Britain are up at the highest that it has ever been yet, at 85% and women are at 88% and 18 to 34-year-olds at 87%.

James Whitehead: Now I keep mentioning the statement that people were asked to agree or disagree with – that the games are a good thing for Britain. Now this is a fairly broad statement so we wanted to dig a little deeper into the latest wave and ask a number of questions to find out more specifically what way positive impact was being felt. So, for example, some of these were around the impact that the games would have on the broader economy. What our responses show is that amongst all the excitement we were all still a nation of realists and Britain people don’t unfortunately have a high level of confidence that there will be an Olympic bounce in the British economy – only 8% strongly believe the economy will recover now more quickly and 17% somewhat believe that there will be a bounce. This of course relates with consumer confidence data which has not been positively affected either. And, as according to JFK and OP never been so low for so long -I’m afraid – remaining flat for the last four months. What responses do show, though, is that the payback is more emotional. For now on, we will feel better about being British. There we go, that’s the one. I think I got the clicker the wrong way around. So we will feel better about being British. So 72% think that the country will have now a stronger identity – that’s fairly high. 70% think that others will feel more British and having spent the past month sharing the joys and tears, us Brits believe that we will feel more connected to our local community in future – at 53%. We also think that the rest of the world will have a more favourable view of us, 73% thinking that other countries will view Britain more positively. And after shots of picture perfect ventures and venues were beamed around the globe, 59% think that there may be a boom in tourism. And this takes us back to the third of the key measures that we tracked throughout the year, which was to ask people to rate out of 10 how proud they are of Britain.

James Whitehead: So over the last six months, we’ve been invited onto various news programmes to talk about this topic of the mood of the nation – before the games started, then during it, then a couple of days ago just as it finished. What we predicted early on was that whilst the excitement and good for Briton metrics might fluctuate, the pride in Britain metrics would continue to build on a fairly consistent upward trajectory. And this is exactly, fortunately, what we have seen. We also said that we do expect a bit of a hangover dip in the first two metrics, but again the pride in Britain would remain higher for longer and could therefore present opportunities for all of us. Overall, the pride in Britain score has climbed from 7.3 3/10 up to 7.81 and now 8.23 after the games have finished. So that is a very strong climb. Within this, the over 55s are consistently more proud with 8+ out of 10, but once again it was the 18 to 34-year-olds feelings that have shifted the most from the lowest base of 6.75 up by over a point and a half to 8.3, so inspired indeed. So the games have been a great antidote to Britain’s recession fatigue after years of belt tightening and economic gloom. And 68% agree that I’m tired of hearing about the recession and the Olympics and Paralympics were a welcome distraction. And with team GB medal rush across the games, Britain Brits feel like world beaters again. But most importantly, there is a new confidence in Britishness. Britishness has a positive virtue – rebuilding brand Britain at home and abroad. There is a renewed faith and confidence in the flag which brands can tap into. 63% of Brits think that the games have been a good thing for British brands. We saw that we can perform under pressure logistically, we delivered great stadium, great ceremonies, the transport held up under pressure and the volunteers created an unprecedented friendly atmosphere. There is a sense among people now that we can achieve. Lord Co concluded in his speech at the closing ceremony at the games by saying “there are some famous words that you can find stamped on the bottom of a product. Words that when you read them, you know mean high quality, means skill, means creativity. We have stamped those words on the Olympic and Paralympic games. London 2012 made in Britain.” Hurrah. So I trust that was a suitable warm-up. Thank you for your one outburst there Peter, very well. I’m fairly relieved that I didn’t have to stand up here this evening and tell you how poor the mood of the nation has been and for the sell piece that I’m not supposed to do if you want to find out more detailed to JWT.co.uk were we will be continuing to track through the rest of the year so you can see how the mood fairs over the next few months. Thank you very much.

Victoria Sinclair