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Volume 20 No. 42
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Olympic power, salary insight, player’s journey

A number of key Olympic executives met in our offices in New York City during a roundtable discussion 75 days out of the London Games. On that April day, I was struck by the energy in the room, and going back and re-reading that conversation, I pick up their prevailing optimism that the Games had the potential to be historic.

From my vantage point, the success of the London Games is easily the biggest sports business story this year. That may not surprise many. The surprise to me was the strength of the Olympic Games. I go back more than 15 years ago to a ballroom in New York when an International Olympic Committee executive was asked about a USA Today cover story about the X Games as a serious threat to the “eroding” Olympics. I recall the perception years ago that the Olympics were a TV property in decline, with rival networks not afraid to counterprogram. I recall being told time and again about how overvalued the Olympic rings are as a sponsorship investment. Yes, a successful Games makes everyone look good, but the Olympic movement could be stronger than ever today.

The IOC and U.S. Olympic Committee are more organized, intelligent and successful in their approach, management and sales efforts. I never expected NBC’s viewership numbers to be what they were or to show gains among youth. One of the discussion points in New York was whether advertising on NBC was even necessary considering the cost compared with the affordability and accessibility of social media. But USOC CMO Lisa Baird said, “People haven’t looked at advertising as a destination during the Olympic Games like the Super Bowl, but they will.” Well, maybe not as a one-day destination spot, but advertisers are going to see ratings north of 17.0 every night, for 17 nights, adding up to a massive cumulative audience.

I’ve seen innovative and talked-about activation from corporate partners, like TOP’s Coca-Cola and Visa, to the USOC’s AT&T. Maybe everyone’s just smarter at this now? Maybe these Games came along at the right time considering the global economic malaise and uncertainty? I have doubts about Sochi, and Rio is a big unknown. But the success of the London Games bodes well for sports business. When every conversation I have seemingly starts with “what’s your read on the economy?” to see the Olympics deliver such massive global interest, community and investment only reinforces the power of sports in the marketplace.

For years, SBJ/SBD has tried to get its arms around conducting a salary survey. The magazine’s initial attempt 10 years ago didn’t provide a solid base from which many broad conclusions could be reached. But we’re trying again, with a survey conducted by Turnkey Search in conjunction with SBJ/SBD. While we were hoping for a stronger participant response, we believe there is a foundation for the future. “Our hope is to replicate the study each year with greater participation from all corners of the industry,” said Len Perna, president of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment. “The more participation we can get, the more precise the data can be, and the more helpful it can be to employers throughout the sports business.” I agree. We need the industry to see this as a valuable tool, offering insight, and not as a privacy or competitive threat.

I have always admired football player Curtis Martin. If you get the chance, watch his induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame from Aug. 4. His life story is an incredible journey, filled with overwhelming obstacles and threats. But his will and determination is why he’s in the Hall. He now hopes to join the NFL’s ownership ranks, and here’s hoping the articulate, classy and empathetic Martin finds the right fit with a prospective ownership group.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at