As every business studies student knows, the late Lord Leverhulme, founder of Lever Brothers, famously declared: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half."
Eighty-four years on, the aphorism remains true -- not perhaps of advertising which these days is largely accountable -- but of the vast sums spent on sponsorship.
Coca-Cola, for example, has reportedly spent £80 million (€64.87m; £43.5m) on Olympics sponsorship and associated ads. Other 'official' sponsors (among them Adidas, Kodak, McDonald's, Panasonic Samsung and Visa) have in aggregate spent an eyewatering $1.34 billion on associating their brands with this summer's homage to sport.
Had they spent half as much, would they have achieved the same percentage uplift in sales volume? Or would this have remained stagnant?
The only certainty, according to new research released this week by New York-headquartered Dynamic Logic, is that the European and north American markets differ considerably in their attitude toward sponsors and sponsorship.
The report notes that 25% of north American respondents claimed to pay closer attention to ads associated with the Olympics, whereas fractionally under half that figure (12%) did so in Europe.
There is a similar discrepancy between perception of ads that feature the Olympic rings logo (although not necessarily making specific mention of the games themselves). Sixty-six percent of north Americans said such ads would attract their closer attention; only 51% of Europeans responded likewise.
And of the sponsors themselves? Half the north Americans sampled said they thought Olympic sponsors were 'industry leaders'; only 40% of Europeans did so.
But it seems Dynamic Logic can only guess at the reasons underlying these marked discrepancies. The company's European managing director Suzanne Moorey-Denham speculates that "it may well have something to do with how well countries feel they are going to do [at the Games]." She added: "Perhaps it's because [the US] will romp home with more awards than we [Europeans] do."
Another factor, arguably as convincing as the Moorey-Denham theory, is that America's TV coverage of the games is far greater than in Europe. And the stateside pre-Games media hype started much earlier -- possibly a significant factor given that online study of 458 people was conducted in June and July.
NBC alone will transmit a record 1,210 hours of Olympic coverage -- three times more than it broadcast during the Sydney games four years ago, and over seven times that of the Atlanta event in 1996. Furthermore the broadcaster has sold a record-breaking $1 billion of Olympics-associated advertising time [WAMN: 16-Aug-04].
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff