In June, when the Olympic Torch toured Scotland, it was joined by Coca-Cola Enterprise’s Field Sales Director for Scotland Alan Halliday, who caught up with SLR to discuss his time on the road, and look at how retailers can profit from the Games.
You’ve had an eventful few months leading up the Olympics, have you not?
You could say that. I had the pleasure of touring Scotland with the Olympic flame and it’s been incredible. My colleague John MacLean and I were there when the torch arrived in Stranraer. We were up at 4.30am and I remember being confused as to why there was a traffic jam. When we arrived at the town square there were thousands of people there. That’s just not something you expect to see in Stranraer first thing in the morning.
A good start then?
I certainly didn’t think it would be that busy. And it carried on from there as we followed it around the country. Even the smallest hamlets made the most of it. People just bought into it and it really brought communities together. There were dots on the map that made such an effort, and it paid off.
How did it compare with other events?
I’ve been around a while, and I’ve seen huge activations, world cups and other big events, but the scale of this has been just incredible. It’s the sort of thing that stays with you.
From that morning in Stranraer, to Union Street in Aberdeen where it was five or six deep all the way down the street, to the park in Inverness where it was just packed out.
So, a memorable experience then?
It exceeded all expectations. It’s difficult to articulate what we saw, no one had any cognisance of how big it would be. More people will see the torch than will actually see the Games.
And not just adults…
No. For schoolkids it was a great experience. The schools and councils worked well together to make the most of it. It was very well organised. Kids were so excited, they made a real effort, making their own torches, and banners and so on. It’s the sort of thing that brings a community together.
How much did retailers get involved?
The reaction was fantastic. Our reps were phoning ahead and urging retailers to stock up. We would show them sales from other shops and they would ensure they were getting enough in. It really was a one-off opportunity.
And did they take advantage?
John and I covered over 2,000 miles and we saw hundreds of shops. There were sales uplifts of 200% in shops that the torch passed. To be honest, that’s a conservative figure because people just won’t believe it was more than that, but it probably was in many cases. It went beyond all expectations.
So will you be relaxing while the Games are on this month?
No. As if the tour of Scotland wasn’t enough, I’ll be in London helping out. It’s going to be long days, but very worthwhile. I was down the week before the Games and the excitement was already building. Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France ensured that the excitement peaked in perfect time for the start of the Games.
And lastly, how can retailers benefit from the Games themselves?
Know when Team GB is most likely to win a medal. That’s when people will get their friends and families round, it’s a very sociable event. Retailers can create a bit of in-store theatre on these days, as it will encourage their customers to buy more, whether it’s beer, coke or crisps. As with anything though, they can’t just expect sales to just rise, you have to work for it, and if you do, hopefully the extra sales will follow.
Alan Halliday is Field Sales Director for Coca-Cola Enterprises in Scotland. Earlier this summer he followed the Olympic Torch around Scotland, and this month will be helping out at the Olympic site in London during the games as part of his company’s sponsorship of the event.