Atkins’ decision to join the likes of BT, BP, Cadbury and Deloitte as a London 2012 official sponsor is a huge step forward for such a shy and, let’s face it, traditionally tight industry when it comes to marketing.
Atkins has opted to pay an unspecified sum to join the third tier level of an official London 2012 provider and can now claim to be official engineering design services provider to the London 2012 Games. "The sponsorship," says chief executive Keith Clarke "unlocks our ability to talk about the clever things we are doing and celebrate being involved in a world class project."
International Olympic Committee rules state that only companies sponsoring the 2012 Games can use the London 2012 brand or highlight their involvement in the project in their marketing materials. This effectively means if you are not a sponsor you are pretty invisible as the companies currently involved in 2012 construction have little opportunity to shout about their work.
So Atkins’ decision to join the list of official services providers will not benefit Atkins alone, Clarke believes. "Our ability to talk about the technical aspects of the Games is good for the whole industry as well as Atkins. Anyone thinking of a career or a change of job will be able to see that engineering is embedded into every aspect of putting on an exciting, world class project like the London 2012 Games. "We’ll be able to show that you can be part of an amazing global event by being a water engineer, an environmentalist or a power engineer. Engineering is reluctant to join the mainstream. This is a big leap for us and the industry."
Atkins’ deal with LOCOG – the private sector body in charge of staging London 2012 – coincides with the award of the significant contract for all the temporary engineering work needed for the Games, requiring more than 100 man years of work. Clarke stresses that the sponsorship agreement followed on from winning the contract with LOCOG on technical merit alone against a strong field of other leading engineering contestants.
And Atkins has already proved its worth on infrastructure and site remediation contracts for the Olympic Delivery Authority. "There is some in-kind work for LOCOG but fundamentally we are handing over a cheque for the sponsorship," he says. The benefits of sponsorship are not about being able to take clients to the Games, Clarke maintains. "We don’t want people to hire us because we can get them tickets to the discus final. We want them to hire us because we can solve problems. We also believe that seeing our name as a sponsor will make our staff proud and provide a straight return on recruitment in terms of attracting people to work for us – there’s still a skills shortage, even now."
Sponsorship does give Atkins an allocation of tickets to Games events that it can buy. Clarke has his eye on the rowing (for his wife), cycling, swimming and a day at the track, but he will be paying out of his own pocket. The company may, however, reward the hundreds of staff working on 2012 Games with some grand days out at London 2012 events.
But it is the work that will give them the real buzz. The temporary engineering, Clarke says, will give his staff some exciting, challenging projects to get their teeth into and as a bonus underscore Atkins’ capabilities. "This is really, really clever engineering that is invisible to most people. If we get it right, you won’t notice it. If we get it wrong, we are naked."
Even so, he is comfortable with the risk of putting Atkins’ name in lights as engineering design services provider to the London Games and so turning the spotlight on its key role in delivering the event. "The UK has the best engineering design professionals in the world. It is complex to get the Games right. "But it’s about the best engineering industry being confident it will deliver, and we are part of that. "We’ll hold our end up and make it more attractive to come in to our industry than ever before. We are proud to have the opportunity. There is no hiding place and we will perform."