SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Marketingsponsorship

Beijing organizers launch bid process for 5 big sponsor categories

Five coveted sponsorship categories connected to the 2008 Olympic Games were formally opened to bidding last week by Beijing's Olympic organizing committee, the beginning of a process that is expected to result in record rights agreements by the middle of next year.

The categories, for the 2005-2008 cycle, are those not covered by existing worldwide sponsorship deals through the International Olympic Committee. Controlled by the Beijing organization known as BOCOG, the categories are automotive, banking, petroleum, local telecommunications and wireless telecommunications service providers.

"This is their call to arms," said Rob Prazmark, president of Olympic sales and marketing at IMG, which represents seven corporations exploring Beijing sponsorship options.

While members of the IOC's club of global sponsors are committing around $65 million each in rights fees for the four years leading to 2008, several BOCOG categories are projected to lure rights deals well above $80 million — and approaching $100 million — because of the vast potential of China's exploding economy. National Olympic sponsor rights historically have never exceeded worldwide rights.

"Simply stated, what is on the line [for Beijing Games sponsors] is brand loyalty for the next decade, at least, among 1.3 billion people," Prazmark said. "What is that worth?"

MOUNTAIN ALERT: While marketers are mainly focused on the 2004 Athens Games only nine months off, the countdown clocks in Turin, Italy, are starting to hum with a little more than two years to the 2006 Winter Games.

Venue operations managing director Emilio Pozzi, in a telephone interview from the Turin '06 Italian Alps headquarters, said the organization is not going to flirt with deadlines by carrying out prolonged negotiations with facility construction and service providers. "We are going to be closing the [contract bidding] one and a half years out [in summer 2005]," Pozzi said. "Not like Athens."

Turin's venue development budget accounts for about $200 million of the $1.15 billion price tag to stage the Games, and "we are within a 10 percent margin of error on that budget," he said.

Pozzi is a veteran of recent big events, having worked in operational capacities connected to the 1994 World Cup and the 1996 Atlanta Games in the United States. His current challenge is a global search for qualified facility managers for the Turin Games. Ten of these positions will be filled in the next few months.

RING TOSSES: With NBC doing the IOC the favor last summer of extending its hold on the U.S. television rights to the Olympic Games through 2012, the IOC can begin courting smaller but still lucrative rights deals. IOC marketing director Michael Payne and the organization's Finance Committee chairman, Richard Carrion, were in Toronto recently to meet with five media outlets, including current rights holder CBC, regarding 2010 rights for the Vancouver-hosted Winter Games. Payne wouldn't predict how much of a rights increase the IOC might see. "That is something the market will dictate," he said. One published report in Toronto said the competition for rights to Games on Canadian soil might push fees from the $20.9 million CBC paid for 2006 rights toward a number closer to $60 million in 2010. Meanwhile, Payne said it's too early to know whether post-2008 European Olympic TV rights will be bid out among individual nations or kept under a European Broadcasting Union umbrella. With years, not months, on its side, "it gives us the advantage," Payne said, "to meet all the players, explore options and see what makes sense." ... As reported by this publication, Oroweat is the official bread supplier for U.S. Olympic training centers in 2004. In making that official last week, Oroweat executives said a new Web site would be launched to promote the affiliation.

Steve Woodward can be reached at swoodward@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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