Tuesday, 6 October 2009

How to build a winning pitch. Mike Lee's lessons from London and Rio

I was extemely heartened to hear the news from Copehagen last week, that the IOC had awarded the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, bringing the games to South America for the 1st time.

Rio had seemed to be the 'peoples' choice for some time but it was by no means a shoe-in. Concerns over security and infrastructure had enabled Chicago to come close to being the US's 3rd summer games in little over 3 decades.

Winning the Olympic bid must surely be seen as the biggest pitch in town - the legacy created by an Olympic games is enourmous and hopefully a positive one (if you're not Montreal, the 1976 games indebted that the Canadian city for years afterwards).

So I asked myself; as we work in an industry where we generally face an open, competitive pitch to win and retain our clients, what can we learn from this process.

What I really liked the Rio's attitude was this: we want the best so we'd better get the best possible team on board. So who do you go to in terms of the best 'Olympic pitch experts'? Well you get the guy who helped win the last one, right? And thats precisely what Rio's bid leader, Carlos Nuzman did. He brought on board Mike Lee, the communications director of London's 2012 bid and his Vero team.

I read a piece by Lee in the Guardian on the day following the decision and I've tried to draw out a few general principles which we might apply to our daily reality of pitching. Clearly I'd like to ask him for more detail, but I dare say he'd probably charge a pretty hefty fee given his success rate.

1) Fully understand your audience

We say this a lot but rarely go to succufficent lenghts to really get to understand individual and corporate motiviation. What are they really looking for? This will never be committed to a brief, so you have to read between the lines. How brave are they? Whats the true extent of ambition?

Lee recongised that the IOC, despite a repuation for being a conversative organisation, had acutally a storng track record for making bold decision in where to award games. He cites Toyko '64 and Beijing '08 as examples of this. This gave him an insight and allowed Rio to develop its bid in a certain way

2) Create a powerful narrative

A pitch is a story, the story of your agency and the process you've been through. It will be much more patable and easy to understand if there is a powerful narrative running through it. It also needs to be a balanced story.

Lee recongised that Rio had a very strong emotional pull as a bidding city - no South American city had hosted before, Rio is famous for its party spirit. However, before playing these trump cards Rio had to prove its worth from a more rational point of view. So Lee had President Lula and the Governor of the Brazilian Central Bank put the raitonal case first, to build the framework. They proved the money and polivital will was in place. Then bid president Nuzman did the emotive close, using videos like this...


3) Get the right people and ensure they are fully committed to the process

Lee makes the point that while Obama flew in for the day to support his home city, President Lula (like Tony Blair for London) had been a fundamental part of the bid for 2 years. Visiting IOC members, current and future games sites - publically showing commitemnt to the cause.

So for us its all abiout the right pitch team, the best people with clear and defined roles

4) Have a clear defining idea

Leave the audience with a very clear idea - they will no doubt, like the IOC, have to sit through 3 or 4 more equally determind presentations, so ensure they have somehting to take away.

For London this was all about inspiring the young people of the world. For Rio it was an idea about the journey the country (and region) was on to bring people out of poverty and create a new, modern Brazil.

So, hats off to Mike Lee - his business will no doubt flourish as his results speak for themselves. Hopefully we can learn a little from his valuable tips.

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