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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

OLYMPIC REVIEW55TOP PARTNERSCoca-Cola, Kodak, FedEx and Panasonic- were fairlyswiftly enlisted, but there was disappointment whenAmerican Express said no. As Pound hasacknowledged, "We had thought that this was as close to a sure thing as Coca-Cola had been."According to Payne, "By late 1985.we weredesperate.Internally, at ISL, it was recognised that if we didn't sign up at least two more partners by thefollowing summer, the TOP programme wouldprobably have to fold - and with it the IOC's attemptto create a marketing strategy."When Visa was approached to fill the PaymentServices category, there was some feeling that itsorganisational complexity - it was, in effect, at thetime a bank-owned association of six different regionalcompanies - might make sealing a deal difficult. The timing was good though, since Visa had recentlylaunched a new advertising campaign - 'It'sEverywhere You Want To Be' - and in retrospect thisnow looks like one of the decisive moments in thehistory of Olympic marketing.Visa said yes and its Olympic sponsorshipbecame, in one sense, a particularly eye-catching way of extending awareness for the brand and itsadvertising campaign on a global level. "We originallybought in for creative content to help reinforce Visa'sglobal acceptance," says Michael Lynch, Visa's Headof Global Sponsorship Management. "Visa built itsbusiness, in part, on the back of the TOP programme,"Lynch adds. "You had the world's greatest sportingevent at the time where Visa was the only cardaccepted." The company has turned out to be one ofthe programme's most faithful partners and hasalready confirmed its participation through to 2020.In the end, nine companies signed up for the firstedition of TOP, encompassing the 1988 Calgary WinterGames and Seoul Summer Games, generating $96million. Given the pioneering nature of the venture, thiswas an impressive effort. It is only subsequently thatthe true value of TOP has become apparent, however.Over the next three editions, the programme rackedup growth of 79 per cent, 62 per cent and 107.5 per cent respectively, with up to 12 partners involved.If growth rates have moderated since then, it is largely a function of the sheer scale attained by the programme, which raised $866 million in the fouryears running up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.And while TOP has always relied heavily on UScompanies, in recent years it has gradually becomemore international, in keeping with the OlympicMovement's global mission. A big step in this regardcame when European companies The Swatch Group(which has used both the Swatch and the Omegabrands in its association with the Olympic Games) andAtos Origin signed up for the TOP V programmerunning from 2001-04. Both have now developed intolong-term TOP partners. Corporations from a broaderrange of Asian countries have also joined long-termpartner Panasonic in the TOP fold. These include mostnoticeably Samsung, a member since 1997, Lenovo,which participated in TOP VI culminating with the2008 Beijing Games and, most recently, Acer.Arguably the three attributes of TOP that are mostvalued by the multinational corporations that pay tensof millions of dollars at a time to be partners are itsgenuinely global scope, the association it provides withthe Olympic brand and the overwhelmingly positivevalues attached to it, and its sheer flexibility. ?BelowPanasonic andVisa were two ofthe originalpartners in thefirst edition of theTOP programme,whilst McDonald'sjoined the TOPprogramme in 2001