|Mike Lee - Chairman, VERO Communications|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 24 October 2011 10:18
Mike Lee OBE is a highly-respected sports communications expert. He headed the successful 2012 London Olympic bid as Director of Public Affairs and Special Advisor to Seb Coe. He was Senior Advisor to the Rio bid team that won hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games and Campaign Advisor to the successful Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup bid.
In 2006 Lee founded Vero Communications- a company that specialises in campaign planning and strategy and media relations. Vero represents a wide variety of clients including leading sports federations and sponsors, as well as bidding nations and cities.
As well as being instrumental in several successful high-profile sports bidding events, Lee was also involved in the IRB‘s campaign for Rugby Sevens to become an Olympic sport, and American businessman John Henry’s takeover of Liverpool FC.
Your background is in politics, what skills did you learn from your time as a campaigns officer and from your time in parliament?
While working in parliament with the Labour Party, I learnt a lot about the importance of good communications and background research. I worked with David Blunkett, who was a highly-respected politician at the time, and I learnt a lot about communications and having a relationship with the media.
You have previously said that the success of your bidding campaigns is largely based on storytelling and narratives, could explain how this approach works?
Ensure that your story stands out. Uniqueness is essential. You have to make sure the elements of the case you’re making are clear. The team must be the base of all communication. The senior team needs to work closely with advisors and develops a narrative that is attractive to your audience. When dealing with the Olympic committees and media we had to develop their overall interest with a compelling story. For example, Rio 2016 we have been working as a team telling a story about the passion and celebration in Rio as well as the strength of the Brazilian economy.
What were the main strengths of the Qatar World Cup bid that you were able to highlight?
It was a team effort. A lot of important work was done in terms of establishing a technical proposal in terms of how it would work in relation to infrastructure. It was important to show that there was investment for a new build and what it would look like and how it would be delivered. There was a strong story about it being a bid from the Middle East and about the passion for football there. That showed it was an opportunity for FIFA.
What do you believe are the most commonly made mistakes by bidding cities and nations?
All bidding campaigns are different and they are not just about communications. The key is to focus on the campaign and ensure there is discipline in marketing and communications. The bidding for the 2012 Olympics started with a lot of observers and the media saying “It’s Paris. It’s Paris. London can’t win.” And perhaps Paris started acting like favourites and paid the price.