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Metal-detector firm puts name on Games
Published February 18, 2002
Garrett products have been
used at previous sites, such as
Sydney, and all the way back to L.A.
The sponsor that may be getting the most brand exposure at the Olympic Games is a little-known company out of Garland, Texas, called Garrett Electronics Inc.
The company manufactures a line of products that have become the unofficial symbols of the Salt Lake Games: metal detectors.
Garrett spent about $3.5 million to supply the Games with about 1,000 walk-through metal detectors and twice as many handheld devices. That's the largest number of metal detectors ever deployed for a special event, including the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, which used 850 Garrett metal detectors.
Every time a spectator or official walks into an Olympic venue, they walk under a subtle Garrett sign. Less subtle are the plastic bins in which attendees deposit their cell phones, keys and other metal objects before walking through the detectors. Each bin — there are about 15,000 in all — has the word Garrett displayed in big, bold letters.
Garrett's entrée into the sports security business was actually the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Until then, the $10 million company, which was founded in 1964 and is still privately held, had sold metal detectors mostly to treasure-hunting hobbyists.
At the time, metal detectors were used by few institutions other than airports. But after being contacted by government officials, Garrett produced 60 walk-through detectors for the 1984 Games.
"Special events, especially the Olympics, is really what got this company started," said Jim De Bray, senior vice president of marketing at Garrett.
Since the 1984 Games, Garrett, which has one office and about 100 employees, has supplied metal detectors to courthouses, prisons and schools, as well as the World Cup and many other sporting events. Every Summer Olympics since 1984, as well as the '98 Winter Games in Nagano, has used Garrett metal detectors. The company has had preliminary talks about supplying detectors for the 2004 Games in Athens, said spokeswoman Monique Pierson.
Starting in Sydney, the company went from being a paid vendor to being an official supplier, trading its products as value-in-kind for limited marketing rights.
Still at the lowest sponsorship tier, Garrett can't do everything the big-spending sponsors can. But higher-tier sponsors who spend as much as $60 million for worldwide TOP sponsorships sometimes can't get their logos into competition areas because of the Olympics' "clean venue" policy.
Even Sensormatic, a security systems firm that wired the Games with surveillance equipment and has a higher-level, official sponsor status, has gotten almost no brand exposure beyond "sponsor recognition" signposts that dot Olympic venues.
Garrett gets to note its official Olympic supplier status in all its U.S. advertising, which generally is targeted at trade and hobby publications that are aimed at the security industry or amateur treasure hunters.
De Bray said it's hard to measure the effect the Olympics has on Garrett's business, but noted that sales in Australia have tripled since the Summer Games there in 2000.
"All we know is that when we go into any city or country, our business there gets larger when we leave," he said.