TALKING OLYMPIC SPONSORSHIPS WITH ACOP
Published December 8, 1994
With nearly 20 months to go before the start of the 25th Olympiad, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with Chris Weldon, VP of Marketing for ACOP. ACOP is the joint venture marketing arm between ACOG and the USOC. Weldon addressed ambush marketing, new sponsorship categories and upcoming announcements. Weldon says to expect another major sponsorship announcement within the "next week or so." THE DAILY: What are some of the strategies you are using to prevent ambush marketing? WELDON: It's a two-prong strategy. The first and most obvious has to do with the legal protection that we enjoy by virtue of the Amateur Act, and the special protection that Olympic entities have to protect their trademarks and terminology. So we're being very vigorous in assuring that non- sponsors and non-licensees do not use Olympic symbols and terminology to try to imply an association with the Olympic games or Olympic team when one does not exist. The second side has to do with education. Education of the public, as well as education of the marketing and advertising community and trade press -- to help those groups understand what ambush marketing is, why it is detrimental to the Olympic effort in this country, and in particular why it is detrimental to the athletes. THE DAILY: Is there a line between where ACOP or the sponsor is responsible to prevent ambush marketing? For example: If a top national TV sponsor chooses not to buy time on affiliates owned and operated by NBC. WELDON: From time to time, companies who are sponsors have chosen not to buy one type of media or another and have been ambushed. We don't really look at it in terms of a line between where our responsibility stops and theirs starts, or vice-versa. All our relationships with sponsors are viewed as partnership relationships, and so we feel it is incumbent on us -- and on them -- to work diligently all the way through the relationship to try to protect their investment and insulate ambush activities. We work with them, literally on a daily basis, to try to make sure that, number one, they are taking advantage of as many media opportunities as possible to communicate what their relationship with us is. But at the same time, we recognize that it is impossible for any sponsor/company to foreclose every media opportunity for its competitors. We need to work together to make sure that the communications that are made through those particular media channels that are still open are accurate and do not try imply an association where one doesn't exist. THE DAILY: Will there be an effort with NBC to prevent the sale of ad time to rivals of Olympic sponsors? WELDON: First of all, we make sure that it's our sponsors who have the first opportunity to buy exclusivity, or failing that, as much of the time in their category as possible. We wouldn't presume to tell NBC that if our sponsor chose not to buy exclusivity in its category, that NBC can't then turn around and sell some of that time to a sponsor. What we will then concentrate on is an attempt to assure that the message delivered by the competitor is not one that implies some association between the [U.S. Olympic] team, the Games and that advertiser. THE DAILY: Give us an update on sponsorships sold. WELDON: We've announced 23 sponsors now. Seventeen of those companies are either the worldwide top sponsors or members of our highest national program, which we call the "partner program." The other six get the level of sponsorship rights as commensurate with their investment in the games. THE DAILY: What major categories are still open? WELDON: One that has received a great deal of coverage that we haven't closed yet is the automotive category and we're still working hard on that. No automotive deal has been consummated yet. ... Over and above that, basically every other category is still open, so long as it doesn't violate the exclusivity of a signed sponsor. And we still have several categories that will be at significant levels. THE DAILY: Are you on schedule with sponsorships? WELDON: Number one, look at the size of the investment we're asking; and two, look at the complexity of these arrangements which stem in large part due to the size of the investment. It takes a good bit of time to come to terms on the exact specifications of each of these deals. ... I feel very good about where we are, and I think everybody's pleased with our progress to date and feels very comfortable that the funding that is necessary will all transpire. ... I think the next six months is very critical. That will get us pretty close to one-year-out. While we will not have finished sponsorship sales, we'll have a pretty good idea of 90 plus percent of who the participants are going to be.