British Airways has been a longstanding partner with the Olympic Games in the U.K.

British Airways’ involvement with the Olympic Games goes back a long time. What does this assocation mean to the brand?

We trace our steps back to 1948 when we were involved as a brand in London, and we’ve also been flying Team GB since 1966, so we’ve had a long involvement with Team GB and ParalympicsGB.

We’re a really proud British brand: We’ve got “British” in our name, we’re red, white and blue and we think this is a fantastic time to celebrate London and everything that’s great about the city.

What criteria do you use when deciding whether a sponsorship is a good fit for the British Airways brand?

We look at marketing strategy and where it’s taking the brand. One of the things we’ll use London 2012 for is to engage with a younger audience. Sponsorship is a fantastic way of talking to new audiences that wouldn’t normally register you as a brand or feel engaged with you.

By tapping into something the whole country is really passionate about, you get a chance to talk to new audiences in a way they wouldn’t really expect you to, and as a result, they become far more engaged in British Airways.

British Airways flew the Olympic Flame on flight 2012 to the U.K. on a plane specially named The Firefly.

How much of a role will social media play in your sponsorship compared to previous years? When BA launched the Olympic-themed “To Fly, To Serve” campaign in February, the ads debuted on Facebook and Google+ – even before airing on TV during Coronation Street

Social media has been a fundamental part of our strategy over the last five years. We started off with a competition called Great Britons, which is a bursary that still exists, where we asked people to apply to bursaries if they can demonstrate their British talent.

Then we would pay for flights to help them improve that talent. We used Facebook with that campaign. People had to use friends to vote and the ones who got the most votes went on to win flights.

Since then we have involved social media enormously. To launch our Great Britons competition we opened a pop-up restaurant in Shoreditch, London for two and a half weeks and people could come down and have a menu tasting.

We only released the tickets on Facebook and sold out in three and a half hours through word of mouth. It was incredible. We then added two more tasting sessions and they sold out in 20 minutes.

We also have a 60-second TV ad that shows all the key areas of central London and by entering your postal code the plane drives by your house. As a result people have been sharing it and it’s gone viral, with 2 million views in two weeks. My dad even told me about it!

As the official airline of London 2012 you will have a significant presence at the Olympic park. Is it going to be a challenge to replicate the brand’s values and service on the ground as opposed to up in the air?

We have over 300 volunteers who will be helping at the park. For the first time ever, there’s going to be an enormous double-sided screen where people can watch the action, and we’ll have a number of volunteers at the park to make sure people have a fantastic time.

Experiential or on-the-ground events offer a fantastic way of engaging with people who don’t necessarily fly with British Airways – to give them a chance to see who we are as a brand.

You launched an ad campaign recently that focuses on food (“Height Cuisine”) and you’ve also been a sponsor of Taste of London. Is there going to be some sort of foodie tie-in with the Games?

As part of our Great Britons program we found a Michelin-starred chef named Simon Hulstone who has been working with Heston Blumenthal to design a dedicated Olympic-inspired menu on board and which will be served to over 3 million people over the summer. The menu was actually inspired by menus from 1948.

British Airways isn’t just any local brand. As a national airline and flag carrier, you’re also ambassadors for the United Kingdom. How are you planning to welcome the world to London?

We are the flag carriers for Britain. When people set foot in our aircraft they say it’s like being in Britain. We just want to bring a piece of the Olympic Games to all of our flights, so that people’s exciting journey to the Olympic Games starts on the British Airways aircraft.

We have an Olympic-inspired menu, we’ve got a large number of Olympic inspired films and documentaries on board, so there’s a lot that we do to get people excited about the Games before they actually land in London.

The British Airways' Firefly transported the Olympic Flame on its journey across the U.K. Image by markyharky via Flickr.