LONDON IPG's McCann Erickson defeated WPP Group in a bid to handle the coveted U.K. government's contract to promote London's 2012 Olympics.
McCann will handle advertising, promotion, publication relations and digital communications in what is believed to be the biggest marketing project in British history.
London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe commented: "This is an extremely significant appointment as the agency will have a huge role in how the Games are not only perceived in 2012, but also how they'll be remembered in years to come. We're reaching the stage in our life-cycle where it's all about delivering -- McCann Worldgroup will help us with this and we welcome them to the team."
Brett Gosper, chairman of McCann Worldgroup U.K., and its EMEA region president, said: "We want to help the biggest event become the most memorable, and are thrilled and honored that the full force of McCann Worldgroup in the U.K. has been chosen as part of the team."
Rather than being paid a fee for services, bidders were asked how much they were willing to work for free and actually pay for the right to market the 2012 Games. McCann bid $15 million to handle the project over the next three years, sources said. In exchange, McCann becomes the first ad agency to be an Olympics sponsor and is entitled to all Tier 3 rights, including use of the Olympics rings. McCann will take over the account currently at London's Chime Communications, which held a one-year contract to handle marketing for the 2012 games prior to the handover ceremony at the Beijing Olympics last summer.
The selection of an American company over a British rival headed by Martin Sorrell has drawn much attention in the U.K. last week. Aside from his prominence in the British business establishment and 2001 knighthood, WPP chief Sorrell has been an active backer of London's campaign to host the 2012 Games and traveled to Singapore in 2005 with the U.K.'s bid team. McCann is said to have triumphed over WPP because the British company was not willing to split the tender for marketing from the one for market research, which is being awarded separately. The U.K. has a $3 billion budget for the 2012 Games.
A rep for WPP declined comment last Friday when Adweek reported that McCann had won the Games.
For McCann, the win boosts the London agency's profile over the next few years with Olympics sponsors and with the U.K. government, which is the country's largest marketer.
This story updates an earlier item with confirmation of McCann's selection and additional details.