SBD/Issue 100/Olympics

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  • IOC Rule Banning Olympian Ads From Non-Games Sponsors In Effect

    Ohno Able To Participate In
    Washington Potato Campaign
    The IOC's Rule 41 went into effect Thursday, forbidding athletes from "participating in any campaign run by a non-Olympic sponsor from Feb. 4 to March 3" unless granted clearance from a national Olympic commission, according to Darren Rovell of CNBC.com. While the goal of the rule is "obviously to prevent ambush marketing, the rule certainly hurts Olympians from signing deals with non-sponsors since those companies are longshots to be granted waivers." The USOC said that it "makes exceptions to Rule 41 when there is no conflict with an IOC or USOC sponsor, and when one of the athletes is promoting a good cause and/or there is a natural tie-in to the broadcast." For example, speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno was allowed to participate in a campaign for the Washington Potato Association that "promotes good nutrition," while hockey player Julie Chu, ice dancer Ben Agosto and speedskater Jennifer Rodriguez were permitted to be part of a U.S. Census Bureau campaign. But Rovell noted industry sources contend that the "hands off period becomes a deterrent for advertisers to sign those athletes in the first place because if the athletes can't be used in the week before the games, what's the point of having them on the roster to begin with?" (CNBC.com, 2/4).

    MAKING A PLEDGE: VANOC Dir of Commercial Rights Management Bill Cooper noted that Canadian Olympic athletes "must sign an agreement with the Canadian Olympic Committee pledging not to breach this rule." Cooper noted that VANOC is "willing to grant exceptions for some athletes with long-standing relationships with a non-Olympic sponsors but the decisions are based on a review of whether the campaign could give viewers the wrong impression that an advertiser is linked" to the Games. As a result, Tim Hortons said that it will pull its latest ad featuring Penguins and Team Canada C Sidney Crosby "from the airways" until after the March 3 deadline. Tim Hortons Dir of Public Affairs David Morelli said that the company "has not faced any pressure from VANOC, but decided to bench Mr. Crosby during the Olympics 'out of respect for Sidney'" and VANOC (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5).

    Koss' Right To Play Not Allowed
    To Set Up In Athletes Village
    SKATE GUARDS: USA TODAY's Mike Dodd notes former Norwegian speedskater Johann Olav Koss' Right To Play humanitarian organization "won't be allowed to set up in the athletes village as it has in past Games because of conflicting sponsorships" with VANOC. Koss said, "I find it's unfair and it's unfortunate because we were using that space as a place to educate athletes about social goodness and the important role they can have in the world." Koss said RTP will "now be just outside the Olympic Village," where sponsor Mitsubishi will host the organization at one of its dealerships. RTP also will have a "pavilion near the Canada Hockey Place in downtown Vancouver" (USA TODAY, 2/5).

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  • Lesser-Known Sponsors Help Olympians During Down Economy

    Reutter Sports Logos Of
    Lesser-Known Companies
    A handful of "little-guy sponsors" came to the aid of U.S. Olympic athletes with "training help and endorsement deals when many corporate giants pulled back during the economic meltdown," according to Leanne Italie of the AP. Speedskater Katherine Reutter said, "As soon as the economy began going downhill, a lot of individual deals went down with it." New Jersey-based ophthalmologist Cary Silverman gave Reutter free Lasik eye surgery, with "travel and hotel expenses paid." Minneapolis-based Bioenergy Life Science Supplements & Sports Nutrition Sales Manager Gabe Herrick "provides her boxloads of a favorite energy powder," the company's D-Ribose. Reutter has been "wearing the company's logo on her left thigh and lapel" as part of the deal, which pays her a $2,500 monthly stipend in addition to the free supplements. Reutter's hometown police department in Champaign, Illinois, also has been a "loyal backer," and she said that "some of the big boys came to call" as the Vancouver Games approached. Reutter: "Verizon and PowerBar have just jumped on the train within the last couple of months. Now everybody wants a piece of the action." For many athletes, it is the "long-term personal sponsors who have supported them through the long haul." For six years, the only logo cross country skier Torin Koos "displayed on racing caps is that of USA Pears, a brand of fruit grown in his home state" of Oregon (AP, 2/3).

    HAVES VS. HAVE-NOTS: ESPN.com's Howard Bryant noted the U.S. Winter Olympic delegation has its "millionaire hockey players, its professional skiers with million-dollar endorsement deals and snowboarders with video games named after them walking alongside its debt-ridden and anonymous-yet-world-class lugers and biathletes." U.S. hockey G Ryan Miller earns $6.5M per NHL season with the Sabres. Likewise, skiers Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller, as well as "new Olympic sport stars, such as snowboarder Shaun White, enjoy lucrative endorsement deals." White is an "unquestioned Madison Avenue star," with his own video game from Ubisoft and endorsement deals with Burton, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Target, Oakley and H-P. Individual-sport stars such as Vonn, White and figure skater Johnny Weir can "use the Olympics as a springboard." On the contrary, luger Ashley Bengt-Walden "works at a roadside bar" in Lake Placid, while biathlete Laura Spector "lives with her parents" when she is not training. Still, "whether it is resentment or resignation to the realities of these stars' existence, some Olympians accept the market forces at work." Luger Erin Hamlin: "It's not football and basketball, so it's hard to get noticed. Do you feel it? Yes, that you have to perform consistently at a high level in order to maintain your funding" (ESPN.com, 2/3).

    HARD TO BREAK THROUGH: The GLOBE & MAIL's Siri Agrell notes, "An Olympic medal can be worth more than its weight in gold for some athletes when they hang up their skates, skis or boards. But while the quest for Olympic glory is about being the best, a win does not guarantee precious sponsorship dollars, broadcast opportunities or a spot on the lucrative public-speaker circuit." Olympic agent Evan Morgenstein said that "turning a medal into a career is no longer a straightforward exercise in alchemy." It requires "not just athletic achievement, but the right look and story to grab public attention." Sports marketing consultant Brad Robins said that Canadian ad campaigns using athletes are "already monopolized by the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and Mark Messier, leaving little room for amateur athletes" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/5).

    REACHING THE SUMMIT: The N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE's Bill Pennington notes the expectations on Vonn "are immense." Vonn has one of the "signature American faces of the Games," with talk of her pursuit of a possible five Gold Medals in Vancouver. But no U.S. alpine skier has "ever won more than two Olympic medals in a career, let alone in a single Olympics." Vonn said, "I haven't won even one Olympic medal yet. I'd like to win the first one and let's see from there. But people are getting pretty amped up. ... They're Phelpsing me." But Pennington notes the comparison to swimmer Michael Phelps' eight Gold Medals at the Beijing Games "is unfair, of course." Vonn said, "I could do everything right in all five races and still not win a medal." But she "isn't shying away from the attention." Vonn: "The Olympics are what I've wanted for myself all my life" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, 2/7 issue).

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