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Volume 21 No. 1


As the highly successful London Olympics came to a close, there were probably very few senior sport leaders thinking about calling Peter Ueberroth. They were probably anxious to get out of London and start focusing their energies on the ramp-ups for Sochi, Russia, in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

But we’d advise those same titans of Olympic sport, be they International Olympic Committee administrators, sport ministers or sport CEOs, to think about arranging a short meeting with the former U.S. Olympic Committee board chairman to get his thoughts on how the Olympics have changed and will further morph in the future.

We made that call to the chief organizer of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics — the privately held, profit-generating Games that served as the turning point for the Olympics as a business. Ueberroth, 74, is one of the few Olympic architects who can look back on the past and comment, with clarity, on the “best practices” of past Games.

“Basically, when we received the Games for ’84, the people of Los Angeles had voted not to spend a single penny on the Olympics,” Ueberroth said. “So we studied all the previous Games, and it took us about 30 minutes to see that only 1948 in London made sense for how we could think about going forward. Remember, the Brits were on food rationing then and rebuilding their city less than a decade after getting bombed in the early ’40s. But they staged ’48 in a manner that worked.”

For Ueberroth, that cost sensitivity is important in discussing how the Olympic movement must move forward in the 21st century. Interestingly, though, the former commissioner of Major League Baseball didn’t linger long on how staging costs had “grown by a factor of 10 to 20 times.” Similarly, his voice was not filled with concern when he noted that host city spending and Games gigantism was out of control or that some recent cities have “left legacies of costly and unused facilities that, in some cases, left a negative effect on troubled economies.”

It was something more than past inefficiency that concerned him.

“I think the immediate trend, going forward, is that fewer countries will be bidding in the next three to four cycles. We’re already seeing that for 2020, where the IOC is only allowing three cities [Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo] to proceed toward the final vote [Sept. 7, 2013, in Buenos Aires, Argentina]. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cities dropping out in the future thus keeping the IOC from having the robust list of candidate cities that we’ve seen in the past.”

How does the IOC resolve that?

“I really hope the IOC can encourage future bid cities by making the requirements much simpler, by requiring less expenditure, and that the actual bid process is not so expensive,” continued Ueberroth, who remembers a time when Los Angeles was the only city in the world willing to take on the job of hosting the Olympics. “It doesn’t serve anybody in the present world economy to have these Games costing the amounts they do.”

Peter Ueberroth can comment with clarity about “best practices” of past Olympic Games.
Numerous reports suggest that Chicago spent close to $80 million on its unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Games. If that trend continues, some IOC experts believe that only countries, not cities, will be able to afford the upfront bidding costs plus the full financial guarantee the IOC requires to stage the Olympics. Even in a moderately stronger economy, most American cities would have to think hard about whether they could convince taxpayers to go out on a limb for the Olympics, particularly when they know there will be no federal bailout.

Still, Ueberroth believes that an environment where Olympic bids will have many applicants can be continued.

“There was extremely positive change in the 2012 Games,” said Ueberroth, who visited London during the first few days of the Games. “Virtually everything there has a solid after-life and is very beneficial to the neighborhoods and country. It’s been a positive reversal to the three Games that preceded London. Sir Sebastian Coe has won another gold medal, to go with the one he won in L.A. in 1984 in the 1,500, with his leadership of the 2012 Games.”

Does Ueberroth think the U.S. could host the Games again, especially after the recent announcement the IOC and USOC had reached a new revenue-sharing agreement for the next 20 years?

“Larry Probst [current USOC chairman] has accomplished the difficult task of reframing a new financial relationship that appears to be fair to both the IOC and the U.S.,” Ueberroth said. “Things were at a place where the USOC administration during my term failed. It was a personal failure, not the people with me, to find an economic long-term agreement. What Larry has done removes one of the obstacles for a U.S. bid. There are other obstacles, but a carefully well thought out bid has a chance.”

If that’s right, perhaps Ueberroth’s Los Angeles legacy, in which Games were staged in 29 cities, nine counties and three U.S. states, might come back into play, and his counsel, rich with real history, would be again sought on how the IOC ensures more cities bidding, better use of funds and a more sustainable Olympic movement.

Rick Burton ( is the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University and the former chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee (during the time Peter Ueberroth was USOC board chairman). Norm O’Reilly ( is an associate professor at the University of Ottawa and was a member of the 2004, 2008 and 2010 Canadian Olympic Committee mission staff.

One element stood out as we surveyed sources in putting together our list of the most influential people in college football for this week’s issue: the wide range of opinions about who should or shouldn’t even be on the list.

Generally, there is a consensus for the individuals who should make up one of our lists, with the disagreement being over where they should rank. On this list, however, outside of the commissioners and top television executives, there was no such consensus.

That was no more evident than in the ranking of NCAA President Mark Emmert. One very connected executive on the list put Emmert in the top three; another very well-placed insider didn’t even have him in his top 25. There were other such variances over the executives on the list, but Emmert was the most glaring example of the different perceptions about who has influence — and the role the NCAA plays within college football. In the end, as our ranking states, we took what Emmert did in the Penn State situation as a clear sign of his influence and authority.

I heard time and again how effective LOCOG was in implementing a soundtrack to the Summer Games, from the music-themed opening and closing ceremonies to the pulsating tracks throughout the venues. It was clearly one of the hallmarks of the Games, creating boundless energy and enthusiasm.

The connection between sports and music is a trend not going away any time soon. Coca-Cola developed a global campaign, “Move to the Beat,” that tied together music and sport for its Olympic activation. Coca-Cola’s Scott McCune told us, “The way we tried to recruit teenagers was knowing, ‘Yes, they like the athletes,’ but we looked at what they are most passionate about: music.” Last week, Pepsi and the NFL created an anthems campaign that featured four songs around specific teams. Todd Kaplan, Pepsi sports marketing director, told USA Today the concept “was born from this insight that sports and music are intersecting in more ways than ever.”

Original tracks never resonate as well as the greatest hits that rocked London, but that was a licensing play. Here, brands are taking their sports assets and IP and creating original content in the hope that it will become a hit with today’s youth while being shared and commented on in the mobile and digital space. It also is a different type of on-product redemption item, and it’s free. In Pepsi’s case, it localizes music and the brands more deeply with the teams, and it uses talent as a reinforcement of local activation. There’s Kid Rock in Detroit singing about the Lions, and devout Raiders fan Ice Cube writing a track for Oakland. It shows that Pepsi understands the local/team passion points.

Many of you commented on our Olympic coverage across SBJ/SBD/SBD Global and our microsite, where Podcasts From A Pub became part of the vernacular. While special thanks go to those with feet on the street, Tripp Mickle and John Ourand, major props go to Assistant Managing Editor Tom Stinson, who was the strategic planner, scriptwriter, conductor, photo coordinator and chief editor of the entire microsite from the beginning. It means a lot to hear from all of you who found the content valuable.

Finally, we are looking for heavy sports consumers — of live events or on TV, digital and/or mobile devices — to be part of a focus-group session at the Sports Marketing Symposium in early October. We are looking for a broad representation of fans to share their thoughts on sports marketing, media and related business issues. If you have someone in mind, let me know. Should be a fun session.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at

When Tom Yawkey bought the Boston Red Sox in 1933, the team’s brand marketing took on his personal values. That meant putting a competitive team on the field but making Fenway Park the attraction, not necessarily individual players. Maybe most importantly, he made a point to understand and appreciate the fan base.

For almost a century, the team was unable to win a World Series championship, a level of failure that could kill many brands. But thanks to the equity that Yawkey built into the team’s brand over decades, the emotional relationship and a nearly religious devotion has remained much stronger than logic might suggest it should. The team has overcome losing seasons, controversy and placement at the top of baseball’s priciest ticket list. Most recently, despite a historic collapse last season and a floundering 2012, the team has continued to fill the park to near capacity.

It remains a rite of passage for New Englanders and baseball purists to pass the experience on, generation after generation. However, times have changed. People are more transient, attention spans are shorter, and expectations are higher and more immediate. These changes have made it necessary for teams to adapt, but that doesn’t mean the success that teams like the Red Sox have had isn’t within reach for even the newest of sports franchises.

Former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey made Fenway Park an attraction and built a relationship with fans.
The decision-making process for fans to engage with a team needs to receive constant attention. There are many factors that influence the choice to spend the money to attend a live event, take the time to watch a game on television or buy a jersey of a favorite player. Any company should start by recognizing the value of reputation. It is important how an organization interacts with people — its employees, community and fans. The same rule should apply to all: Be open, honest and professional.


An organization must begin with its staff by creating a culture in which its employees are treated well and encouraged to improve themselves. They are on the front lines, after all. We often talk about recruiting fans to be advocates of the brand but forget that the team employees, including executives, players, and third parties such as concessions workers and even police directing traffic, have the ability to reach an exponential number of connection points on a daily basis.

Walt Disney would often attribute success to the individual contributions of the entire team of “cast members,” providing the added incentive to be an active and familiar part of the legacy of providing excellence. On the flip side, a negative culture will result in high turnover, sending a clear message to staff, media, fans and partners.

Often, an organization’s employees work alongside prominent community members, especially if they are encouraged to volunteer. In fact, encouraging employees to be socially responsible allows them to benefit from better teamwork and greater work satisfaction, to feel good about themselves, and to communicate better with their co-workers.


Every individual or organization has a duty to be socially responsible, to maintain a balance between financial success and the quality of life of the workforce and their families, as well as the welfare of the local community and society as a whole. A genuine interest in the betterment of the community, the way Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints helped lead the city of New Orleans’ rebirth after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, will also help a team’s bottom line.

But too often organizations run through the motions, treating it like any other business expense. They do the same fundraisers: golf and fishing tournaments, a luncheon, sending players and cheerleaders to a hospital for a photo op, or sending out a pennant autographed by the dime package defensive back. A truly successful effort will link prosperity between the team, its employees and the community to result in the long-term emotional bond with the team. This will eventually influence purchase decisions as the market develops a partnership with the team in supporting the cause.

Studies have even shown that a company that promotes a social conscience has a marketing advantage over those that don’t. All organizations should realize that the health of a community is interwoven with the health of a team.


More than ever, fans look at their investment in a team as a value proposition, expecting more for less and wanting more touch points that don’t end when the season ends. Escalating costs, time constraints and greater access to a variety of high quality, inexpensive media channels have created greater challenges. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a team has to spend more money in order to maintain its fan base, but it does mean a bigger investment in time, effort and thought.

A team can start by making sure it lives up to its promises. Find new ways to entertain. Promote the social aspects of the game. Make fan safety paramount. Embrace new technology that allows for more dynamic ways to interact with fans. Personalize the guest experience. A good CRM strategy will not only accumulate valuable information for a team’s database, but it also will reconcile with research to produce an actionable communications plan that is both personal and effective because it is integrated into fan lifestyles. Discover what is actually important to them and find a way to give it to them.

Teams don’t have the luxury of building on decades of tradition any longer, but, as Yawkey taught, stay true to the brand, and love and respect the customer. The team will be rewarded with a stellar reputation and a fan connection that is stronger and more enduring than the average business-consumer relationship and less influenced by the cycles of on-field performance and off-field competition.

Ryan Richeal (, founder of Play Deep Marketing & Media and CMO of, develops marketing strategies for brands, teams, leagues and athletes. Follow him on Twitter at @PlayDeepMM and @WSN247.

According to, monies infused from “commercial partnerships account for more than 40 percent of Olympic revenues.” I’d like to share my thoughts on three Olympic sponsors that brought their “A” game to London.

UPS: UPS has married itself to logistics, and it touts logistics wherever it goes. During March Madness 2012, UPS even dissected the most famous NCAA basketball pass ever (Hill to Laettner) as an analogy to logistics. So in London, UPS again hitched its wagon to logistics. UPS called attention to their shipping 30 million LOCOG-related items through Facebook. Even better, they created a wonderful page that ran through all sorts of examples combining logistics with the Olympics and Paralympics. UPS added color and texture to its brand — and logistics — by embracing the Olympics.

Omega: When Omega sponsored the 1948 Olympics in London, who would have predicted returning in 2012, when once again the Games landed on the River Thames? But here they were, the official timekeeper of the Olympics. I love how Omega used history to tell a story. Reading their Olympic timekeeping history website (including the full Olympic timeline) taught me about the “Magic Eye” photoelectric cell in 1948, Remus and Romulus in 1960, and the Foggy Slalom of Chamrousse in 1968. You don’t wear an Omega; you display one on your wrist and instantly become an expert in Olympic history and timekeeping lore.

Procter & Gamble: P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” succeeded (and will endure) across so many levels. It’s relevant — we all have, or have had, a mom. It’s emotional — you see a winning athlete hugging his/her mom after victory, you choke up. It even offers staying power — can’t this campaign apply to any competitive activity? My favorite aspect of the campaign involved how they facilitated travel for mothers of Olympics athletes in London.

The Olympic Partners should be hailed for embodying the spirit of the London Games.

Steve Seiferheld
Haddonfield, N.J.
Seiferheld is senior vice president of consumer research for Turnkey Intelligence.

Swimmer Michael Phelps announced his retirement after he became the most decorated Olympian of all time at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Like many of us who enjoyed some of our best days participating in sports we began as children, Phelps has been living and breathing practices, fitness regimens and tightly scheduled days for years. He mapped his goals and conquered them on the world stage. Just days after his final event, he insists that he’s retired. For good.

Phelps might drip shiny award medals from his neck, but his superpowers likely remain poolside. He won’t be exempt from transitional struggles and human emotion that is likely to follow his retirement from swimming. It might surface in a week, month or year, but even though he voluntarily steps away from sport, he will still have to go through steps that many of us equate to grieving.

Swimming and training to be the world’s best is a large part of Phelps’ identity. He will need to redefine himself, and the sooner he can do that, the better off and happier he will be. The process of rediscovering oneself can be rocky and unbearable at times. Setting new goals and building a support team will help him with that transition. The rigid structure and plentiful support an athlete receives during his or her career is often overlooked in retirement. A new game plan for the after-life is critical, and a support team will be necessary.

Phelps has skills that are important in any career: competitiveness, strong work ethic and self-discipline. It is important for him to keep dreaming and competing in the game of life. I wish him well and encourage him to ALWAYS dream big!

George E. Koonce Jr.

Koonce, a former NFL player with Green Bay and Seattle, is university advancement director for the Urban Scholars Program at Marquette University.