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SBD Global/February 21, 2014/Olympics

On Heels Of Vancouver Games, Canadian Olympic Movement Enjoys Growth

Four years after Canada hosted the Vancouver Games, its Olympic committee is in the midst of transforming its business operations. Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Overholt, who joined the organization in '11, has hired a new senior leadership team, more than doubled the size of its staff from 38 to 100 employees, expanded its sponsorship support and increased its licensing revenue. Overholt said, “(Vancouver CEO) John Furlong and his team saw the potential of what the Olympics could mean for the country. It was a watershed. All we’ve been doing since is making sure that it wasn’t a wasted opportunity.” When the former NFL Miami Dolphins chief marketer joined the COC, the organization was just exiting its joint-marketing agreement with the Vancouver Games. The agreement meant the national Olympic committee let the host city manage sponsorship sales in the market for seven years before the Games. They shared the revenue. Overholt hired one of Vancouver’s sales execs, Allison Walker, and they worked to retain some of Vancouver 2010’s sponsors. They renewed deals with Hudson’s Bay Co. (apparel), RBC (finance) and Bell (telecom). Then they added deals with Canadian Tire, adidas and three USOC sponsors: BMW, USG and Hilton. Overholt: “We looked at the United States and tried to think where can we go and say, ‘You can take a position around North America.’” He added that the combination of new and existing deals makes total sponsorship revenue greater than it was for the COC during the Vancouver Games. Sponsorship revenue is up 100%.

FINDING NEW SUPPORT: Overholt said, “Two things happen in Olympic host nations after a Games. Government support stops, and the private sector has exhaustion around the Olympic movement. It was the opposite in our case. In the two or three years after Vancouver, we were able to grow the revenue from the private sector.” In addition to corporate support, Canadian Olympic sports also get government funding. The government started a non-profit program called “Own the Podium” before the Vancouver Games to fund Olympic hopefuls in their pursuit of medals. It’s continued to fund that since '10. The most important corporate partners the COC has signed since Overholt arrived are Hudson’s Bay and adidas. Hudson’s Bay develops apparel for the team, and adidas develops footwear and performance apparel. The two have helped build the COC’s licensing business, which Overholt expects to be a $5M-$10M business annually in the coming years. Overholt: “In Canada, that’s big business. That rivals major sports brands” (More at SBJ's On the Ground Blog).
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Olympics, Russia

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