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SBJ/December 13-18, 2010/Events
Developing nations’ bids have edge on West
Published December 13, 2010
Western countries have been slow to react to increasing competition for international sporting events and will continue to struggle to win events unless they revamp their case for future bids, said a half dozen of the world’s top bid consultants.
The consultants said the combination of Beijing’s success in hosting the 2008 Olympics and South Africa’s success in hosting the 2010 World Cup had emboldened the appetite of International Olympic Committee members and FIFA members considering bids from developing nations. The results are evident in a string of post-2007 votes by the IOC to take the Olympics to Russia in 2014 and Brazil in 2016 and by FIFA to take the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
“The dynamics of the bidding world have shifted to embrace fast-rising economies,” said Jon Tibbs, head of JTA, a bid consultancy that worked on the Sochi 2014 and Tokyo 2016 Olympic bids. “[Former IOC President Juan Antonio] Samaranch’s desire to unleash the potential of the Chinese market, and the coinciding of that with the massive growth of their economy, raised the Olympics and set a precedent that people were keen to follow.”
Mike Lee, chairman of Vero Communications, who worked on Rio’s 2016 Olympic bid and Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, agreed, saying, “You’re seeing a changing world order. The world of staging sporting events has become linked to broader dynamics of economic development, geopolitical development and countries that are looking for a spot on the world stage.”
Western nations that have put forward bids and lost in recent years have been slow to recognize and adapt to that change, the consultants said. Instead of presenting new, compelling reasons why the IOC or FIFA should award them the Olympics or World Cup, they relied on many of the same reasons they had used in the past, such as economic viability and stable security. But the metrics for awarding events have changed.
“Ten or 20 years ago with the IOC or FIFA, money talked,” said Terrence Burns, president of the Atlanta-based consultancy Helios Partners, who worked on Sochi’s 2014 Olympic bid and Russia’s 2018 World Cup bid. “What does FIFA need today? It’s not money. They have a lot of that. It’s not viewership. They have plenty of that. Today, they have a completely different perspective on how they want to impact the earth through sport.”
Burns added that Western nations are having a hard time adapting to that new dynamic, especially as bids from emerging markets such as Rio and Qatar build their pitches around exposing the Olympics and World Cup to new regions of the world. Since 2007, the IOC and FIFA have awarded only nations with emerging economies the Olympics (2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio) and World Cup (2018 Russia and 2022 Qatar), respectively.
The consultants said that if Western countries redesign their bids, they can begin to win again.
“The communications challenge now for established markets is significantly higher than new or exciting emerging markets,” Tibbs said. “Nations like the U.S. or Germany are going to have to come up with absolutely compelling reasons why it’s not appropriate to go to new markets without coming back to your roots. They need to remind people about the new generations that have not yet experienced these events.”
Burns said that Western bidders need to spend more time analyzing the goals and mission of the IOC and FIFA in order to craft bids that speak to their respective membership. The resulting communications strategy must permeate every presentation, every conversation and every video.
“I see bid after bid after bid forget that what moves people is emotion,” Burns said. “Our goal is to give people goose bumps that are undeniable. It’s about vision and guts. You have to go after it, but you have to do your homework first.”
The consultants agreed that strong bid leadership was key to developing a message and selling it to voters. They pointed to Sebastian Coe’s work on London’s 2012 Olympic bid and John Furlong’s work on Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic bid as emblematic of the type of charismatic and engaging leadership that Western bids need.
“In the end, it comes down to trust,” said Andrew Craig, an independent consultant who worked on the London, Sochi and Tokyo Olympic bids. “If they trust you, believe in you and like you, then they will vote for you. Trust and likability are strongly important.”
The consultants said the prospects have improved for the U.S. winning a future Olympic bid or World Cup bid. Anti-Americanism has subsided and more time has elapsed since the U.S. last hosted an Olympics (2002) or a World Cup (1994).
Neither the U.S. Olympic Committee nor U.S. Soccer Federation have committed to bidding for future Olympics or World Cups. Still, Craig said he could see the U.S. winning the Olympics in 2024 if it bids, and Lee favored its chances of hosting a World Cup in 2026 if it bid again.
“Contrary to what many think, there’s a great amount of good will to the U.S. in the Olympic movement,” Craig said. “After two losing bids [New York and Chicago], the bid from the right city, run by the right people, with a strong USOC, which they’ve got right now, could be very compelling for 2024.”
Burns agreed, saying, “If America brings a bid to the world that is imaginative, passionate, ebullient, celebratory and humble, it has as good a chance of winning as anybody else.”