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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

The Movement has remained true to the 'cleanvenue' policy that helps to distinguish Olympic eventsfrom other elite-level sporting activities. So in-stadiumor on-athlete advertising is out. But TOP sponsors haveused just about every other tool in the marketeer'srepertoire. This includes using Olympic trademarks in corporate advertising campaigns, entertainingcustomers at the Games and using tickets and otherrewards in employee incentive schemes and consumerpromotions. In any case, as Coke's McCune says: "The lack of signage doesn't bother us.We wouldrather have everyone in the stadium drinking an ice-cold Coca-Cola than have our logo on the athletes.""Companies have understood that in today's society,an association with the Olympic movement would be a positive thing to do," says Gerhard Heiberg, the IOCMember from Norway who chairs the IOC's MarketingCommission. "Some people use it to motivate internally,"Heiberg continues. "Some to get a better image. Some, like Samsung, have grown their brand statusinternationally. Companies see different aspects as validto them. Different people have different approaches."Heiberg also argues that TOP partners have "broughtour message, our ideals to the outside world. Yes, wehave helped them, but they have helped us to promotethe values in the Olympic Charter. That's why I don't call it sponsorship. I call it partnership."Before we start negotiating with companies, we check what are their basic values, how is theircorporate governance, how do they treat theirpeople.We have said no to companies where we see our basic philosophy is not the same."Ever since TOP I, when it ran a programmesupporting the US Ski team athletes, Visa has usedathletes to provide a local slant to its Olympic-relatedcampaigns. "The beauty of the Olympic Games is thatit has global reach, but local relevance," says Lynch."In Vancouver we had roughly 34 different countriesand nearly 1,700 clients/members activate againstVisa's Olympic marketing campaign which included a very popular 'Go World' Facebook page featuringVisa sponsored athletes.In most cases markets arelooking for that locally relevant content and that'swhat the athletes deliver for us."He continues: "We don't talk about athletes' use of Visa. We talk about the Olympic ideals and the56OLYMPIC REVIEWTOP PARTNERS