Although our programme has evolved with each passing year, what remains constant is our commitment to local communities across England, Wales and also Scotland since Lloyds Banking Group added Bank of Scotland to its portfolio in 2009.
Right from the off, we knew that our sponsorship activity had to be inclusive, to resonate with a customer base that covers every part of the population. A bank is at the heart of the local community, and with a branch on almost every high street, we knew we were better placed than any other partner to take the Games to communities everywhere. So our strategy has always reflected this – it's about taking a global programme local and making it tangible for communities.
Through programmes like Local Heroes, supporting upcoming athletes on their journey to London 2012 and beyond, or the work we've done in helping businesses benefit from London 2012 so that a third of its contract winners have been supported by Lloyds, our priority has always been to ensure that our activity has integrity, credibility and inclusivity. We haven't aligned ourselves with the elite end of British sport.
This approach has already given us an impressive return – 75 per cent of our customers are aware of us as a London 2012 partner and this awareness is leading to a third of them being more likely to recommend us.
On a local level, customers who know about our Local Heroes programme are 50 per cent more likely to recommend us as a bank. This tells us our partnership is working as a vehicle to communicate our brand, its values and what we stand for, and in doing so helps people think differently about us.
Over the last 18 months in particular, we've really given people the chance to either feel involved or to benefit – whether through winning tickets to the Games, offering the opportunity to be a Torchbearer in the Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays, getting behind the Local Heroes from their area or supporting their local school in National School Sport Week.
Our role as a Presenting Partner of the Olympic Torch Relay, the 70 day nationwide event that starts on May 19, will be a major focal point for us. Travelling through thousands of towns and communities, the Olympic Torch Relay will mark the moment that every corner of Britain starts to feel the excitement of London 2012 and is the perfect platform for us to continue to take the Games across the length and breadth of the UK.
For Lloyds, the relay is almost like the glue that binds all of our programmes together in 2012. Our Torchbearers will be representing their local communities, Local Heroes will be carrying the Flame for their sport and young athletes all over the UK, schools will be lining the route and helping us celebrate along the way, and once again, our branches will be thrust back into the heart of the community as the Torch goes past their front doors and Britain prepares for the greatest show on earth.
This year is the culmination of five years' work and we are all very excited and proud to be involved.
We're continuing to support Local Heroes and when the new programme kicks off in March, we'll have supported 1,000 athletes since launching.
We're hoping to see a number of these athletes selected as part of Team GB and ParalympicsGB which will be a hugely proud moment for all of us, so fingers crossed.
We're also helping more schools get involved in London 2012 – as well as National School Sport Week, we'll be helping schools celebrate the Games through World Sport Day on June 25, and thousands of pupils also have the chance to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay through our Flame Followers programme.
But it will be an incredibly busy period for all of us and the first experience of working at an Olympic Games for many. As a leader, part of my focus is to look after the health and welfare of my team during this intense period, but also to ensure that they are getting the most out of what will be a once if a lifetime experience.
Sally Hancock is director of Olympic marketing and group sponsorship at Lloyds Banking Group