Event Marketing: Centennial Games preview

Michael Lang is president of Lang & Associates, a Toronto-based international event marketing agency with offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Atlanta.Kirsten Armitage is an account executive with Lang & Associates, and co-ordinator for the Event Marketing column. Contributions, ideas, media releases...

Michael Lang is president of Lang & Associates, a Toronto-based international event marketing agency with offices in Vancouver, Montreal and Atlanta.

Kirsten Armitage is an account executive with Lang & Associates, and co-ordinator for the Event Marketing column. Contributions, ideas, media releases and feedback should be directed to Kirsten at (416) 229-0060 or fax (416) 229-1210.

Despite the potentially high cost of Olympic association, many companies are game for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.

The Olympic Games represent one of the world’s most effective marketing properties. The five-ring Olympic logo is one of the most widely recognized symbols around the globe.

Image reflects excellence

This single, powerful image reflects the excellence, quality, exclusivity and prestige not only of the Games and its athletes, but of the sponsors, products and services with which it is associated.

As such, companies spend millions of dollars to secure the right of Olympic association as a marquee platform on which to evolve global image.

The Atlanta Games will likely be the most ‘hyped’ Olympics in history for several reasons.

1. With 1996 marking the Olympic Games’ 100th anniversary, the next Olympic stop is being themed as the ‘Centennial Games.’ This will give sponsors a way to tie in a century of Olympic history.

2. A u.s.-staged Olympics should hold great appeal to viewers, broadcasters and sponsors.

Audiences should be larger for the Atlanta Games, which will feature record hours of coverage, with a significant portion broadcast live during primetime, than for the 1992 Barcelona Games, which were limited to tape-delayed coverage in prime.

3. With the Centennial Games being held in worldwide sponsor Coca-Cola’s home town, this should ensure a media and marketing frenzy that will further spur interest.

Overshadowed by price

These days, however, the emotion of the Olympics is often overshadowed by the price. The value of the u.s. market, combined with positive results generated for past Olympic sponsors, means increasing costs for sponsorship programs.

The Olympic Program (top), the highest level of sponsorship, can come with a pricetag as high as $50 million.

For this fee, sponsors acquire the right to use the five rings freely in association with their logo, along with the words ‘worldwide sponsor.’

top sponsors for Atlanta ’96 have considerable Olympic experience and include Bausch & Lomb, Coca-Cola, Eastman Kodak, ibm, Time Warner/ Sports Illustrated, Panasonic, ups, Visa and Xerox.

In an unprecedented effort to raise large sums of money from a small group of corporate ‘partners,’ Atlanta Centennial Olympic Properties has convinced nine major companies to invest roughly $40 million each.

Rights include use of the five-ring USA logo, and official U.S. Olympic Committee designation.

While several historic Olympic sponsors, including Chrysler and Hilton Hotels, rejected the expensive sponsorship program, Home Depot, NationsBank and Delta Air Lines, among others, have signed on.

The price of securing television rights to the 1996 Olympics set record highs: u.s. rights went to nbc for an unprecedented $456 million, while cbc will pay nearly $29 million for all Canadian broadcast rights.

Consequently, tv ad rates will rise sharply in an attempt to offset these costs.

With all-inclusive, category-exclusive packages available at a reported $50 million to $60 million (nbc), and $9.8 million (cbc), exclusivity may be a tough sell.

In return for paying millions of dollars in rights fees alone, sponsors are increasingly demanding the need to protect their investment and leverage their involvement.

Atlanta organizers are responding by intending to provide the most ambush-proof Olympiad in history, and offering unique sponsorship extensions, for example:

Coca-Cola is considering the development of a major entertainment attraction within Centennial Olympic Park, a festival-like gathering place for Olympic visitors, which would include interactive entertainment, pin trading, memorabilia exhibits, concessions, performance stages and televisions carrying live action.

750,000 bricks

Home Depot expects to sell at least 750,000 bricks to build the plazas and pathways through the park.

Consumers will be able to buy a $35 brick, engraved with their names, and be immortalized as contributing to Atlanta’s Olympic legacy.

The home improvement retailer extended its Olympic sponsorship to Canada by becoming the largest supporter of the Canadian Olympic Association’s Olympic Job Opportunities Program.

Home Depot will employ up to 10 Olympic hopefuls in its 11 stores across the country.

For the first time, McDonald’s will operate six restaurants in Olympic Village, offering traditional fare, salads, fruit and yogurt to athletes and coaches free of charge.