SBJ/June 19-25, 2017/Olympics

Intel joining TOP as IOC global sponsor

Intel is close to announcing a nine-figure global sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee, according to multiple sources familiar with the parties’ plans.

The deal is the tech giant’s most ambitious step yet in its 2-year-old strategy of using sports to market the user experience it powers instead of the microprocessors it sells.

INTEL'S KEY SPORTS TIES

NBA: As an official sponsor of the NBA playoffs and Finals, Intel’s three-dimensional 360-degree replay technology has been used as part of national broadcasts.
MLB: Debuted replay technology during MLB All-Star events. This month, MLB and Intel struck a three-year deal to produce live and on-demand games in virtual reality.
NFL: An expanded relationship includes deploying Intel freeD technology in select stadiums across the league.
ESPN X Games: Intel Curie-powered modules were placed on snowboards and BMX bikes to track real-time athlete data that was incorporated into the live ESPN broadcasts.
NCAA: Starting with the Sweet 16 round of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Intel provided VR technology to Turner and CBS broadcasts as part of a multiyear partnership.
La Liga: Installed cameras to allow 360-degree and 3-D replays.
Endorsements:: Intel has used Serena Williams, Tom Brady, LeBron James and Michael Phelps in television commercials touting the company’s technology.
Other deals: Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Stars, San Francisco 49ers, Round Rock Express, Texas Stars, Levi’s Stadium, PGA Tour AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and PGA Tour Safeway Open.
Membership in the IOC’s TOP (The Olympic Partner) program sells for roughly $200 million for a four-year cycle. It includes worldwide rights to use the Olympic rings, sponsorships of national Olympic teams, and extensive hospitality and activation assets at the Games themselves.

Intel’s exact category definition is unclear, and one source said that question has been at the forefront of negotiations for nearly a year. Drones and virtual reality were two possible components of a deal, sources said.

Intel is entering a crowded space for Olympic partners. The IOC already has several other technology sponsors, including Samsung (wireless communication equipment and computing equipment), Panasonic (audiovisual equipment), and Alibaba Group (cloud computing.) Also, organizers of the upcoming Olympics in South Korea and Japan have signed their own tech partners to domestic deals.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has been a personal driver of this deal and has insisted that it start in 2018, a source said, seeing the Pyeongchang Games as an inflection point for technology and sports in light of emerging 5G mobile technology. Korean telecom sponsor KT has said it will offer Olympic visitors a 5G experience in 2018.

However, time is short for Intel if it hopes to activate at the Games in February. Major sponsors have booked hotels and are in the detailed planning stages for hospitality/activation programs that often involve hundreds of people and staff. Intel is already seeking agencies to help it build a plan around Pyeongchang 2018 and the Tokyo 2020 Games, sources said.

Intel will host a media conference in New York on Wednesday. It did not disclose the topic in an invitation to media, but included the Olympic rings in its note. Intel did not respond to questions by press time and the IOC declined comment.

For the IOC, Intel is the second new global sponsor added in just six months, following the blockbuster deal with Alibaba announced in January. It is the fourth addition in an entirely new category at the global level since 2014, adding new financial stability in an era of rapid change for the Olympic movement.

The deal is also a boon to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which gets 20 percent of IOC deals.

The IOC’s sponsorship portfolio is evolving as its commercial division seeks sponsors that are willing to support the IOC’s major strategic initiatives as well as market their wares. That mission has become an especially high priority in light of the belief that the IOC damaged its brand by ceding so much operational control to local organizers in Rio and Sochi.

In 2015, Intel began to see sports as the key to a new marketing strategy designed to re-establish its brand as a tech leader. At the time, consumer research indicated Intel had become an afterthought because so few people knew precisely what its products did inside sophisticated devices marketed by other companies.

One of its earliest attempts to fix the problem was a 2016 deal with ESPN’s X Games. At the winter X Games, Intel installed its Curie modules on competitors’ snowboards, which then broadcast real-time time data on the athletes’ motion, acceleration and location on the ESPN broadcast.

Since then, its deals have included the PGA Tour, MLB and NBA All-Star Games, and the Super Bowl, and have expanded to show off its virtual reality and 360-degree replay technology.

After Intel won the Sports Business Award for Best in Sports Technology last month, Intel Sports Group general manager James Carwana said: “Sports is the canary in the coal mine. It’s the leading edge. What we’re trying to create here is the next way to capture reality.” He later added: “You start with sports and the future grows broad.”


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