An evaluation of the image impact of hosting the 2012 Summer Olympic Games for the city of London
thesisposted on 19.11.2013, 12:38 by James Andrew Kenyon
Contemporarily, the hosting of mega-events (MEs) is one of several strategies used by cities and governments to bring about improvements in a place s image and recognition. While London, host of the 2012 Olympic Games, is already considered to be a leading global city (e.g. Anholt & GfK Roper, 2011), the potential image benefits to be accrued from hosting the Games may in fact impact more upon internal, domestic perceptions rather than on external, international perceptions (Anholt, Oon, Masure et al., 2008). A key objective, therefore, for those involved in the development and delivery of the 2012 Olympic Games is to further enhance the image of the city (both domestically and internationally) and to minimise the risk of negative image formation (DCMS, 2008). However, image, in the context of MEs, is not an easy component to control, as previous Olympic Games have demonstrated (Shoval, 2002; Smith, 2005). The main purpose of this critical-realism-informed project, underpinned by theoretical-methodological social representation theory (SRT) (Moscovici, 1961, 1984), was to evaluate the domestic image impact of hosting the 2012 Olympics, pre- and post- Games, for the city of London. Based then on social representation theory, and a combination of abductive and retroductive research strategies, a survey was carried out among British citizens to identify their opinions concerning London as a city (or place brand), the Olympics as a ME, and the 2012 Games as a one-off event. Exponential non-discriminative snowball sampling was used to recruit participants (UK citizens, pre-event, n=561, post-event n=215) who completed a mixed-methods questionnaire both before and after the 2012 Olympics were held. The main part of this questionnaire was comprised of randomised free word-association tasks (qualitative) using London, the Olympics and 2012 London Olympics as inductor terms; i.e., Please give the first 10 words that come to mind when you hear the term . Data analysis involved collating the responses of the free word-association tasks into semantic word clusters, with one word (or phrase) representing each theme be that an object, emotion, an opinion, etc. Only words or phrases cited by 15% of participants were used to construct the image of each entity. The next level of analysis involved producing a similarity index and subsequent dendrogram, based on Kendal s correlation coefficient, that established the strength of the connections between the various elements of each social representation. The content and the structure of these pre- and post-event social representations were analysed and then compared to determine whether a.) hosting the 2012 Olympic Games represents an appropriate strategy to develop the city s domestic brand; b.) a co-branding process occurred, expressed by an image transfer, from the event to the place, or vice-versa; and c.) the major differences between the images generated by those living closest to London, compared to those living elsewhere in the UK. While London s overall image does not go through any significant changes pre-to-post event, the results of this study corroborate the value of sporting events in place branding strategies from a domestic perspective, but highlights some limitations, such as the exacerbation of London s pre-existing negative associations. In terms of co-branding, the results do not reveal a co-branding process to have occurred between London and the overall image of the Olympics, but there is some movement of elements from London to the 2012 event (related mainly to pre-Games anticipation) and between the 2012 event and the overall Olympics (related to the latter s unique defining associations). Finally, in terms of the differences between the images generated by those living closest to London, compared to those living elsewhere in the UK, there is a difference which appears to have been facilitated, at least in part, by a 2012-effect, with the event seemingly contributing to London being perceived as generally busier, more expensive and more congested by those living closest to the city, but more vibrant and more multicultural by those living elsewhere in the UK.
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences