OLYMPIC REVIEW53TOP PARTNERSIt is a little after noon on July 28, 2010 andJacques Rogge, the International OlympicCommittee President, is in a London hotel just upthe road from Big Ben with the mothers of some ofthe world's best-known Olympians. The occasion? A news conference to announce the arrival of Procter & Gamble (P&G), the consumer products companybehind brands like Gillette, Duracell and Iams, as aworldwide Olympic sponsor. Exactly 12 days earlier inNew York, the Dow Chemical Company, another blue-chip US corporation, had also signed on as a TOPpartner. Taken together, the two deals demonstratedthe continuing vigour of the Olympic Movement'sflagship global marketing programme, even inexceptionally testing economic times.Consider this: by the time the Olympic cauldron is extinguished in London at the end of the Games in 2012, TOP (as The Olympic Partners programme is universally known) will have generated a staggering$3.5 billion in cash and so-called value-in-kind prod-ucts and services, or thereabouts, for the Movement,since its inception in 1985. The majority of this revenuehas been channelled to Games organisers and to the205 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around theworld. Moreover, in the process of activating their TOPpartnership rights, over the last 25 years getting on for30 of the world's most respected multinational corpo-rations have helped to promote the Olympic values. As Rogge recently observed: "The TOP programme has helped ensure the viability of the Games andsecure the financial future of the Olympic Movement.Quite simply, staging the Olympic Games would not be possible without our partners across the globe." Today, the Olympic Movement, in addition to everything else it represents, is one of the biggestcommercial actors in the world of sport, generatingrevenues of more than $5 billion in each four-year period from broadcasting and marketing rights, ticketsales and the licensing of Olympic merchandise. Thirty years ago, the picture could hardly havelooked more different. As Richard Pound, one of thelongest-serving IOC members and one of the chiefarchitects of the TOP programme's success, wrote inhis book, Inside the Olympics, published in 2004: "Theeconomic model of the Olympic movement [in 1980]was a prescription for disaster. Governments providedalmost all financial resources and were not the slightestbit shy about tying such support to their own politicalagendas. Such private sector support as existed was derived almost entirely from television revenues,and of these, about 95 per cent came from a single source, the United States."Furthermore, the Movement was also in the middleof a damaging era of political boycotts. The MoscowGames of that year was subject to arguably the mostdamaging of all such initiatives, the US-led boycott. Intothis unpromising situation - likened by Pound to a"political sword of Damocles over the Movement" - ?
54OLYMPIC REVIEWTOP PARTNERSwalked the new IOC President, a then little-knownSpaniard by the name of Juan Antonio Samaranch. It is not the aim of this article to chronicle everything thatSamaranch did for the Olympic Movement in his 21years in office. Suffice to say that he quickly saw theimportance of financial autonomy and, thus, ofestablishing new sources of income for the IOC besidesbroadcasting contracts. In 1982, he established the IOC Commission for New Sources of Finance.At the time, as Pound has observed, the IOC had"not the slightest idea about marketing". Samaranch,though, knew someone who did: Horst Dassler ofadidas, the sports equipment manufacturer, whosefamily also controlled ISL, an entity that bought up andsold on marketing and broadcasting rights to the FIFAWorld Cup, the world's premier football competition.According to Michael Payne, a marketing specialistwho joined ISL in 1983 as Olympic project managerand went on to become the IOC's first MarketingDirector, Dassler submitted his ideas on a newmarketing programme with a video to the 1983 IOCSession in New Delhi. As Payne wrote in his book,Olympic Turnaround, a required text for anyone withan interest in the business underpinning the OlympicGames: "The presentation delivered a stark messageto the 78 IOC Members in attendance. 'You, theInternational Olympic Committee, own the mostvaluable and sought after property in the world. Yet the Olympic rings are the most unexploited trademarkin existence. No major corporation in the world would tolerate such a situation.'"In 1984, the Los Angeles Games underlined thecommercial potential of the Olympic Games,generating a surprise profit, in spite of anotherboycott, this time by eastern-bloc countries. Moreover,corporate involvement with the Movement was long-established. Coca-Cola, a TOP partner, traces itsinvolvement back to 1928, when "a freighter deliveredthe US Olympic Team and 1,000 cases of Coca-Colato the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games". Six yearslater, Johnny Weissmuller, a US swimming goldmedallist before securing further fame as the best-known embodiment of Tarzan, became the firstOlympian to endorse the company's flagship product.Even before that, the 1908 Olympic Marathon race,made famous by the collapse of Italian athlete,Dorando Pietri, had an Official Caterer in the shape of the Oxo Company, maker of meat extract products.Ironically, though, the tradition of nationalsponsorships made efforts to establish an internationalprogramme all the more delicate. As Pound haswritten, "the NOCs did not want the IOC to be engagedin marketing or sponsorship programs in theircountries, correctly concluding that this would eat into their own potential revenues."Accordingly, once the critical idea of bundling rightsfor the IOC, the Games themselves and the NOCstogether into a single four-year package, withexclusivity for partners in each specific productcategory, had been devised, an arduous succession of negotiations was necessitated to bring NOCs onboard. At the time there were more than 160 of them.From the perspective of the corporations in line to become global Olympic partners, however, thisnotion of a "one-stop shop" had the potential to makerelations with the Movement a whole lot easier. WritesPayne of the old system: "The true complexity of thechallenge facing would-be sponsors is hard tooverstate. It involved persuading over 160 countries to sign up for a single marketing strategy. In manyways, it was like the political challenge of unifying the members of the United Nations or the EuropeanCommunity around a single policy. Sponsors found this highly complicated structure time-consuming,frustrating and unworkable." It is little wonder that Scott McCune, VP IntegratedMarketing at The Coca-Cola Company, now observesthat the TOP programme "allowed us to step back and look holistically at the Olympic Movement".Inside the IOC, meanwhile, proponents of the newprogramme had to overcome reservations from thosewho, in Pound's words, "thought that it was beneaththe dignity of the IOC to get involved with anythingsmacking of commercialism". Eventually, though,authority to proceed was secured in 1985 at the 90thIOC Session. Somewhat ironically, the setting for this Session was East Berlin.Now the plan's authors needed to sell theirbrainchild to corporate backers and this did not proveentirely straightforward either. Four companies -AboveIOCPresident JuanAntonio Samaranchand Coca-Cola CEORoberto Goizuetawere leaders oftheir respectiveorganisations whenthe first TOPProgramme waslaunched back in 1985