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INSIDE TRACK: Power behind the Games comes at a cost to customers

THE Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games chairman has had more than one reason for cheer of late.

Not only has the countdown to the Games reached "200 Days To Go" with all going swimmingly well, but wearing a different hat Robert Smith, or Baron Smith of Kelvin, is celebrating another notable "success".

Lord Kelvin, in a different guise, is chairman of SSE, the energy giant that last week announced it is on course to increase profits to £1.54bn this year.

Great news for shareholders receiving bumper payouts, less so for customers whose incomes continue to be squeezed.

Just two months earlier SSE raised tariffs by an average of 8.2%, blaming government green levies.

But, over the past decade, energy bills have rocketed by 168%. SSE, like the other energy firms, is riding out tough economic times better than its customers.

Lord Smith, recently awarded the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, has a track record in altruism in this part of the world.

Perhaps, given its ongoing charm offensive in the west of Scotland, SSE is hoping some of that will rub off on its profile.

The firm is one of the key sponsors of Glasgow 2014, with its branding on view to the anticipated hundreds of millions watching the Games across the globe and the tens of thousands flocking to Glasgow across July and August.

SSE wants to be an integral part of the "Friendly Games". Marketing for dummies would tell you SSE's strategy is to be associated with excitement, endeavour, a sense of commonality and a spirit of togetherness. Something nice. Something good for you.

The recently completed £130m music arena, arguably one of Europe's best venues, just west of Glasgow City Centre is, to use its full name, the SSE Hydro.

SSE customers can get first dibs at premium tickets. Students, young professionals and couples have a different reason to choose their energy provider. Go SSE and you can head the queue for Queens Of The Stone Age or Vampire Weekend. Energy tariffs of £1300-a-year can be quite rock and roll.

The push into ScottishPower's traditional heartlands by SSE has seen the recruitment of a former adviser to two Glasgow City Council leaders and even its branding dominating the concourse of the city's Queen Street Station.

The firm is also piloting a new street lighting project in Glasgow, one of two being explored by the local authority. If the £25m schemes go ahead the council will seek loans from the Green Investment Bank (which incidentally is chaired by Lord Kelvin).

SSE has clearly seen gaps in the market. It is simply doing what big firms do. And incongrous branding at big sporting events, likewise, is nothing new (McDonald's and Coco-Cola spent a combined £130m at London 2012).

But sorry if I'm not overly excited that moving the Glasgow 2014 netball competition to the SSE Hydro means twice the crowd can attend.

I've another big gas and electricity bill which is concerning me more.

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