One Year Out from Paris 2024 — Piecing Together the Global Event Operations Staffing Puzzle
Operations Director of Olympics & Paralympics
- Jul 26, 2023
Every two years–that’s how often we move host nations and begin operational prep for the next Olympic Games. With Paris 2024 just one year away, my co-author Thomas OUDART and I thought it’s a fitting time to reflect on one of the most important operational decisions your brand can make to determine the success of your Olympic experience: Staffing.
And we’re not just saying that anecdotally; data from the GMR Brand Experience Index© backs it up. Without the presence of engaged brand ambassadors (BAs), many live experiences fall flat. BAs aren’t simply extensions of your brand – they ARE your brand. These folks can make or break an experience and help or hinder the growth of your brand community.
However, in global events like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, there’s far more to consider than just the right candidate. For example, with the FIFA Women’s World Cup currently in progress, there are 9 host locations across two countries, so your talent pool is greatly distributed. For most Games, your primary staffing needs to happen in one main city – and that’s for everyone activating, including the Host committee, who needs thousands of volunteers. That means everyone is pulling from the same pool of candidates and really stress tests your systems and processes.
Luckily, this isn’t GMR’s first Olympic or Paralympic Games. In fact, it’s our 18th. We have the operational infrastructure in place to make this turnkey for our brand partners and to anticipate and plan for any potential roadblocks. Let me break it down, using Paris as a case study.
We started our In-market Experience (IME) process over a year ago – a full two years out from the Games. Depending on the market and the labor laws, we prioritize partners with a well-respected and deep candidate pool to choose from.
These in-country partners are also very aware of labor laws and potential watch-outs. For example, we just came off multiple Games in Asia, where a contract with an individual is held in very high regard. However, in France, employees hold the power, and a contract isn’t really a binding document, so if a different opportunity comes along the employee can break it without notice. The implication here – turnover can be as high as 20% and you have to account for that by overstaffing your programs and/or have a backup pool of candidates.
With our staffing partner in place, we work through the nuances of a host nation and what that means for our clients. For example, many countries have stricter labor laws than the US. In France, they operate on a 35-hour work week. To extend, you need written exceptions from the governing body and more workforce to account for any extra hours.
Leading With Empathy
One of the things that sets GMR apart is the empathy with which we operate our in-market programs. The Games could potentially mean 2+ months of non-stop work for in-market staff, and burnout is real. We also dig into local culture, not just for our brand work, but as we build out our in-market staffing programs.
Paris is a commuter city because the cost of living in Paris is so expensive. That means our staff may be commuting as long as an hour to and from work each day. Back-to-back shift scheduling would inevitably lead to quick burnout amongst the team.
These factors mean you’ll need more staff in Paris to fill your positions than in most other Games. On top of that, most Parisians take an August holiday, which happens to fall directly in the middle of the Games, so that needs to be accounted for in planning as well.
Incentivizing is one of our favorite mitigation tactics to overcome these hurdles. We provide our employees direct incentives and rewards for their hard work. And if there’s excess tickets, staff could be provided a ticket to an event on their day off. On top of that, our in-market staff gets to work at onsite activations with resume-building Fortune 100 brands. This helps differentiate them from their peers for future job applications.
The reason we’re able to identify quality talent, anticipate the needs of our in-market employees, and train them to deliver top-tier experience for many of the International Olympic Committees TOP partners is due to our depth of experience in the Olympic & Paralympic space. If you’re looking for a brand partner that can ensure your brand activations and hospitality experiences resonate with your audiences, we’re here to help. If there’s one thing we know for sure – a bad experience with a brand ambassador is actually worse for your brand than having no BA at all. And no one wants that.