SBJ/October 1 - 7, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Krimsky ready for a USOC role, whatever that may end up being

He will not talk about specifics or timing, but there can be no doubt that John Krimsky Jr. is ready to take on a to-be-announced role with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

There is a growing belief within the sports business community that Krimsky is restless as president of YankeeNets Properties. He was the top marketing executive during an era of unprecedented economic expansion for the USOC between 1986 and 1999, a period during which his division was credited with raising more than $2 billion.

Whether he would return to the American Olympic movement as a fund-raising consultant or fill a newly created USOC position, Krimsky won't say. But he acknowledged the marketing environment for Olympic sports is not what it used to be.

"The funding of Olympic organizations in the U.S. must change," said Krimsky, who was recruited by George Steinbrenner to the YankeeNets marketing venture along with former USOC executive director and ex-Turner Sports President Harvey Schiller. "The days of big, corporate sponsors being the principal resource for the USOC, and the days of the network broadcasters being able to support the global Olympic village, as it were, those days are at an end. New ways of raising money from the public need to be developed, and quickly."

The USOC's quadrennial budget when Krimsky joined the fray — after a 26-year career at now-defunct Pan American World Airways — was $182 million. The 2001-04 budget is $491.5 million.

Krimsky said he is one of several members of the USOC's "old guard" in contact with USOC President Sandra Baldwin about "a whole range of programs she is planning to implement."

The economic engine that has fueled exponential growth in sports sponsorship and advertising in the past decade obviously is sputtering, and Krimsky said he expects "the [Olympic] movement will be impacted in much the same way as the rest of sports."

But, unlike his former brethren in the airline industry, so strapped that the U.S. government is providing emergency funds, Krimsky believes the business of the Olympics is on its own. "There is probably no government bailout coming for the Olympic movement," he said.

ALLIANCES MIGHT ADD MUSCLE: When discretionary marketing dollars were flowing the past 15 years, U.S. federations governing the glamour Olympic sports desired autonomy from the USOC. They hired marketers and hit the street to sell their annual properties, some with great success. Bob Colarossi, president of USA Gymnastics since 1998, sees that tide turning.

Marketing partnership between the high-profile sports and the USOC "is the model the USOC wants to get to," Colarossi said. "It is a partnership of economic necessity but also mutual benefit and value. It doesn't make sense not to have us working together."

For now, USA Gymnastics is solo as it shops sponsorship deals for two major properties, the 2002-04 U.S. Championships and the 2003 World Championships, which recently had its venue moved from Indianapolis to Anaheim. Indy was unable to accommodate an August '03 time frame. Anaheim was an easy choice because Southern California is the nation's hottest youth gymnastics market.

World championships typically are owned and operated by a sport's international governing body. But when the world gymnastics body awarded the 2003 championships site, USA Gymnastics, as host federation, negotiated the rights to both domestic and world sponsor packages.

As USAG discovered in July when its national championship went on without a title sponsor for the first time in 15 years, even proven, TV-friendly Olympic sports are meeting with resistance in the current marketplace. Fortunately for gymnastics, it has domestic advertising and signage deals with Adidas, General Motors, Hershey, Texaco and Visa through 2004.

RING TOSSES: Scott Blackmun's fate remains in limbo. The acting USOC chief executive officer won't learn whether he will get the job permanently until meetings Oct. 26-28. The decision was due in mid-September. Then Sept. 11 dawned and schedules were altered. Meanwhile, a USOC panel apparently has received other candidates to review from its headhunter, Korn/Ferry International. A group of Olympians sent a letter endorsing Blackmun, however. ... City councils always seem at odds with Olympic organizers. Salt Lake City is no exception. The 2002 host city's council members balked at plans to erect the five Olympic rings — each 160 feet in diameter — in the foothills above Salt Lake during the Games, Feb. 8-24. An Oct. 9 public hearing is pending.

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