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Volume 21 No. 39
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Beach Games tests sponsorship waters before new 2019 date

Planning for the World Beach Games is back on track after a two-year delay, but San Diego organizers and the Olympics-affiliated group staging them have scaled down their ambition and budget.

The event, envisioned as a millennial-targeted, low-key beach version of the Olympics, is planned for six days in October 2019 at San Diego’s Mission Beach, with about 2,500 competitors across 15 sports disciplines.

Its operating budget is now $50 million, down from the original $135 million blueprint developed in 2015. That old spending plan was reworked after organizers scrapped their original goal of launching this year with 5,000 athletes in 21 sports.

“We moved it to 2019 to give us the right amount of time to get it right,” said Vincent Mudd, managing partner of Carrier Johnson + Culture architects and founder of the San Diego Exploratory Foundation, a group created to pursue the 2024 Olympics that’s now organizing the Beach Games.

On Oct. 21, the Association of National Olympic Committees granted the San Diego group comprehensive commercial rights to the 2019 Beach Games, putting them in charge of raising the entire budget through sponsorships and media rights. Promotion of the event will start in January, followed by a push to sell sponsorships. They will sell a presenting sponsorship and a broadcast sponsorship, and have identified 26 categories to sell, Mudd said, but they will be open to a single comprehensive deal.

The Beach Games and ANOC aren’t bound by the International Olympic Committee’s or U.S. Olympic Committee’s commercial relationships. Mudd said they will approach global IOC sponsors first out of respect.

They expect to handle sales in-house, he said. “The challenge with many of the agencies is, the word ‘inaugural’ scares the heck out of people,” Mudd said. “It’s hard to value.”

But, he said, they’ve tested the waters in the sponsorship industry and are optimistic they can sell to both traditional sports marketers and companies looking to make a splash with young consumers in a new way.

The Beach Games’ events likely will include disciplines such as standup paddleboard, beach soccer, park skateboarding and bouldering (a form of rock climbing). At a meeting in Prague this week, ANOC leaders will finalize the sports program and further discuss details with national Olympic committees and international sport federations about their involvement.

The event’s success will depend on commitments from a range of countries broad enough that it can be marketed as a truly global event, as well as commitments from sports federations to treat the Beach Games as a world championship-caliber competition so the top athletes want to come.

“I think we’ve got that,” Mudd said. “I don’t think we knew we had that in ’15.”

Media rights sales will probably take a backseat for the time being, Mudd said, because they have high hopes for an advanced, interactive online streaming experience. “Let’s not make that decision on broadcast too fast,” he said. “Because we need to make sure the person who’s going to be doing that understands the digital model the way we want to understand it, and I’m not sure everybody’s there yet.”

The event is based on the 8-year-old Asian Beach Games series. Both sponsorship industry and Olympic movement veterans have expressed skepticism that the commercial and sports side of the plan can come together, but ANOC Secretary General Gunilla Lindberg praised the San Diego plan as “robust” after a recent visit.