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Volume 20 No. 42
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Acer logging out of Olympic sponsorship

Acer’s option to renew its worldwide Olympic sponsorship has expired, and the International Olympic Committee does not plan to renew the computer company’s agreement beyond 2012.

The IOC plans to leave the official computing category vacant and look for new partners to join The Olympic Partner program, sources familiar with the organization’s sponsorship plans said. The decision reflects the IOC’s efforts to deal with a rapidly changing technology category where conflicts have sprung up among existing sponsors that are competitors in new product areas.

Acer is running a sweepstakes in the U.K. linked to its Iconia Tab, but has not marketed its Olympic sponsorship much in the U.S.
Acer, a Taiwanese company, paid approximately $100 million to become the exclusive computer partner of the Olympics for the 2010 and 2012 Games.

An Acer executive didn’t respond to requests for comment regarding its future in TOP, and an IOC spokesman said the organization doesn’t comment on speculation regarding future agreements.

The move is largely a result of changes in the computer category, which the IOC first sold in 2004. Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo joined TOP as a sponsor for the 2006 and 2008 Olympics before Acer bought the same

rights for the next quadrennial.

But as smartphones and tablets have become more sophisticated and pervasive, the category has become more cluttered. IOC sponsors Acer, Samsung and Panasonic all manufacture tablets, and the development of that technology has tested the exclusivity that Acer bought in the hardware computer category.

“The technology is changing so quickly that it’s almost impossible for the IOC to have a hardware category,” said Davis Butler, who heads the marketing agency Encompass International and managed TOP for six years.

Butler, who had no knowledge of the IOC’s plans, said the IOC was right to re-evaluate the computer category and reconsider how it sells technology sponsorships. The IOC has already extended its agreement with Panasonic through 2020 and Samsung through 2016. Acer is the only partner in the technology area whose deal was due to end this year.

In Butler’s mind, the IOC has two options after 2020. It either can sell a single sponsorship in the technology area or sell multiple sponsorships and define areas where sponsors have exclusivity and areas where they can compete.

If it pursued the first model, it would be adopting a system similar to FIFA, which has sold all of its technology category rights to Sony. If it opts for the latter system, it would adopt a model similar to what it has now and give Samsung exclusivity in the phone category, Panasonic exclusivity in the TV category and Acer exclusivity in the computer category but allow them to compete in tablets and other new technologies developed after contracts are signed.

“That may not be possible, but it would be a different way to approach it,” Butler said.

Acer is the only partner showcasing its tablet products in its Olympic marketing efforts. The company has branded its Iconia Tab as the official tablet of the Olympics and is running a sweepstakes promotion where United Kingdom residents who buy an Iconia Tab can register to win tickets to the Summer Games.

The company has not marketed its Olympic sponsorship much in the U.S. It did not buy advertising on NBC during the Vancouver Games and has not bought advertising for the Olympics this summer.

Acer’s former corporate vice president of marketing, Gianpiero Morbello, who oversaw marketing for the Olympic sponsorship, left the company last August.