Drugs group Sanofi makes Olympic jump in rebrand bid


Drugs group Sanofi makes Olympic jump in rebrand bid

LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Sanofi is hoping that by sponsoring the Olympic Games it can attract new talent, reward existing staff and shake off the French drugmaker’s conservative image.

The 2024 Games has gained other new partners from the host nation France, including luxury goods giant LVMH (LVMH.PA) and supermarket group Carrefour (CARR.PA).

Sanofi, which some estimate is spending tens of millions of euros on the Paris Games, says it has sometimes struggled to convince prospective young data managers and data scientists that a pharmaceuticals company is a “cool” place to work.

“We’re using the Olympics to show that we are,” said Josep Catlla, head of corporate affairs at Sanofi, which is also supporting popular French breakdancer Dany Dann.

The median age of Olympics viewers is rising, data firms have said, and the International Olympic Committee has been trying to drum up Gen Z and Millennial interest through social media campaigns as younger audiences move away from TV, and by introducing newer sports such as breakdancing and skateboarding.

Sanofi is financially supporting 14 individuals in Paris, including British Paralympic swimmer Ellie Challis, in a team comprising an equal number of men and women, and an equal number of Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

“We’re playing into the diversity aspect,” Catlla said.

Sanofi is also bringing more than 8,000 employees to the Games as volunteers or through internal rewards programmes.

It declined to give details of how much it is spending, saying it is “putting as much money back into our employees as we have paid to the games organizer”.

Olympic sponsorship fees alone are between 80 million euros ($87.5 million) and 150 million euros, French media reports have said.

Nick Blenkarne, head of strategy at branding agency Imagination in London, said Sanofi is likely to be looking at its “expensive” sponsorship through several lenses.

These include how it could change the way consumers perceive the company, how it could attract business customers through hospitality programmes, and how it could widen its appeal.


“Positioning yourself as an organisation that wants to do good in the world is always going to be good for attracting new talent,” said Blenkarne, whose firm has worked with Samsung and Hyundai at previous Olympic Games.

“Big events like the Olympics and the World Cup are proven to move the needle when it comes to brand perception,” he added, noting that brands like Cisco and Visa have also been unlikely, but long-time, Olympic sponsors.


Catlla said Sanofi, which is one of the biggest makers of vaccines and anti-inflammation treatments and normally sponsors events relating to diseases or patient communities, has made an “exception” for the Olympics partly because they are in Paris.

“We’re not in sport and culture or music or other things consumer goods companies do,” he added.

The Olympic Games have traditionally seen one-off sponsors from host nations that are not part of the sports or consumer industries. Partners of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics included firms such as Tokyo Gas, Japan Airlines, Nomura and Tanaka Holdings.

Sanofi did not comment when asked whether the French government had suggested it sponsor the Paris Olympics

It remains to see whether Sanofi’s sponsorship will move the dial for investor perceptions, after several years of mixed financial results.

“Maybe (the Olympics) is another opportunity to change minds on the company’s innovation engine,” said Terence McManus, a fund manager with a focus on healthcare at Switzerland’s Bellevue Asset Management, which is a Sanofi shareholder.

In October, Sanofi abandoned its 2025 profit target under a plan to list its consumer healthcare business and spend more on testing innovative drugs, wiping 20 billion euros ($22 billion) off its market value.

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson, who joined four years ago with a mandate to turn the company around, has faced setbacks including the failure of breast cancer pill amcenestrant and losing out in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think this (the Olympics) is maybe part of a wider cultural change that the new management team has been at the head of since various members joined between 2019 and now,” said Tom Lemaigre, European equities portfolio manager at Sanofi investor Janus Henderson.

“I don’t know how sponsoring the Olympics can be seen as a force for bad. They’re about unity and competition — people performing at the highest level.”

Lemaigre noted that to the general public and potential employees there could be “a kind of cachet”, but “sponsoring a big event like this in and of itself isn’t going to change an investor’s perception on the company.”

($1 = 0.9140 euros)

Reporting by Richa Naidu and Ludwig Berger. Additional reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Matt Scuffham and Alexander Smith

Source: Reuters