Team USA sponsor deals just for Tokyo off the table
Next summer, more than 600 American athletes will head to the Tokyo Summer Olympics, the biggest show in global sports. The U.S. contingent is again the heavy favorite to win the most medals, with the NBC broadcast virtually certain to lead Nielsen ratings for 17 straight days.
But with that powerful marketing vehicle just 13 months away, Team USA has at least five major sponsorship categories vacant — and that’s not likely to change much.
That’s because the organization that controls those rights, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Properties, only wants to sell available 2020 rights as part of long-term deals that include the 2028 Los Angeles Games and Team USA for the full period until then. A short-term engagement for next year is not for sale, LA28 spokeswoman Lauren Lamkin said.
The open categories are beer, financial services, hotels, energy and sporting goods retail. Most have been vacant since shortly after the 2016 Rio Olympics. The USOC usually aspires to sell sponsorships that cover multiple Games, but there have been one-offs before, including consecutive single-Games deals with Dick’s Sporting Goods for 2016 and ’18.
Chris Pepe, chief commercial officer of USOPP, the joint sales venture of LA28 and the U.S. Olympic Committee, said in a statement that a Tokyo campaign could be a starting point for a long-term deal.
“Our unprecedented timeline allows a longer view of strategic opportunities and the chance to co-create the future with partners, which could include leveraging learnings from Tokyo,” Pepe said.
Unfilled sponsorship categories for Team USA heading into the Tokyo Games
■Sporting goods retail
Those long-term deals are priced at $400 million or more in combined sponsorship and media spend with NBC, and will require in-depth negotiations as well as board and CEO-level approval. USOPP is still in the early phases of developing the offering and outreach to buyers. A more limited short-term engagement for the U.S. team in 2020 would top out in the low seven figures.
From the American perspective, Tokyo 2020 is caught in a transitional period between the USOC status quo and the ramp-up to sales for Los Angeles 2028. The USOC controlled its own rights when these categories became vacant and did attempt to sell short-term deals that would expire post-Tokyo, knowing that the International Olympic Committee requires a clean slate for L.A. after Dec. 31, 2020.
But by mid-2018, preparations to form USOPP in conjunction with LA28 were in full swing, and efforts turned toward developing the long-term infrastructure and offering. The IOC requires that Games organizing committees merge their rights with national Olympic committees for the run-up to the home Games.
The USOPP’s primary responsibility is to fund the L.A. Olympics’ $6.9 billion budget, and it believes a short-term deal with one company would undermine negotiations for a large 2028 deal elsewhere in the space.
There surely are brands that could make good use of a short sponsorship but, “The flip side is it may be more trouble than it’s worth if you’re involved in significant longer-term discussions,” said Jan Katzoff, senior adviser to Engine Shop’s global division.
Michael Lynch, a former Visa sports marketer and co-founder of 3 Emerald Marketing, said he understands the complexities but thinks they should be open to the possibility of a stopgap.
“Yes, LA28 is looming large out there as the granddaddy of them all in the U.S. Olympic movement,” Lynch said. “Having said that, we’ve also got a world-class American team to field for Tokyo 2020, and that requires substantial resources. Why would we not take a deal to help support our American Olympic and Paralympic athletes?”