Author archive for ‘Tim Crow’

What’s the Best Sponsorship of the last 20 Years?

It’s awards season in sponsorship in the UK, and everyone at Synergy Towers is pleased as punch to have multiple nominations again in the UK Sponsorship Awards and the Sport Industry Awards, both as an agency and for our work for BMW on England Rugby, Bupa for the My First Run campaign featuring Jo Whiley, Capital One for the Capital One Cup and RBS for the RBS 6 Nations.

We’re also incredibly proud that the Coca-Cola title sponsorship of the Football League, which ran from 2005-2010 and which Synergy conceived, negotiated and managed for Coca-Cola, and the British Airways London 2012 sponsorship, which Synergy partnered BA in negotiating, have both been nominated for ‘Best Sponsorship of the Last 20 years’, a one-off category to celebrate the UK Sponsorship Awards 20th anniversary, and which in a great innovation will decided by a voting process which is open to all.

Coca-Cola Club Colours

Coca-Cola’s activation of the Football League featured a series of groundbreaking campaigns, led by Coke changing its colours, for the first time in its history, to match the colours of the 72 Football League clubs.

The full list of nominees for the Best Sponsorship of the Last 20 Years award is:

British Airways London 2012, Cadbury’s Coronation Street, Carling Premiership & Carling Cup, Coca-Cola Football League, Domino’s Pizza Simpsons on Sky, John Smith’s Grand National, Lloyds TSB London 2012, The O2, O2 England Rugby, Orange Wednesdays, Sky Cycling, T in The Park and Unilever Series at Tate Modern.

Congratulations to all the brands, agencies and people involved, there’s some truly brilliant work in here.

To vote for your choice, email with your choice (make sure you vote by the deadline of March 5) and to see how the voting is going follow @SponsNews on Twitter.

By on February 27th, 2014

Tags: Awards, Default, Football Sponsorship, London 2012, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultants, Synergy

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#Synergy30: Michael Payne on the future of Olympic sponsorship

Foreword by Tim Crow, CEO Synergy 

To mark Synergy’s 30th year in business, every month throughout 2014 we’re going to look at the future of sports and entertainment marketing with a specially-created and timely piece of #Synergy30 content, some made by us, some made by friends of the company. 

Last month Patrick Nally looked at the future of sponsorship, calling for a radical re-think of the global sporting ecosystem that his pioneering sponsorship model did so much to create.

This month, to coincide with the end of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, we’re delighted to have our old friend Michael Payne, former Marketing Director of the International Olympic Committee, share his views on the future of Olympic sponsorship.


Michael Payne

Like Synergy, the The Olympic Partners (TOP) global sponsorship programme is 30 years old this year and continues to be held up by many as the gold standard, the ultimate proof being the renewal rates and the nature of the commitments TOP sponsors are making. Most have committed through to 2020 and in Sochi the IOC announced that Panasonic had committed to 2024. That was a surprise for many – the Japanese company has rarely been a first mover: to sponsor Tokyo 2020 was to be expected, but to extend out to 2024 with a rumoured doubling of rights fees, was not. Something about TOP is clearly working to make major corporations like Panasonic, Coca-Cola, Visa and so on commit on a multi- decade basis. 

Panasonic President Kazuhira Tsuga and IOC President Thomas Bach at the Signing Ceremony in Sochi for the new Panasonic Olympic sponsorship. Its extension to 2024 took observers by surprise. (Photo: Business Wire)

Panasonic President Kazuhira Tsuga and IOC President Thomas Bach at the Signing Ceremony in Sochi for the new Panasonic Olympic sponsorship. Its extension to 2024 took observers by surprise. (Photo: Business Wire)

That’s the positive side. Less positively, if you look at the rights and benefits that are offered, nothing has changed materially in the last 15 years. There is a challenge and a debate as to how you evolve the rights offering so that it is more in tune with the marketing programmes of major business-to-consumer and business-to-business brands today.

You could argue that there is no need, because the TOP sponsors are renewing without change, but there is a challenge in how you are going to grow the TOP revenue base, which frankly is getting very flat, by clearly expanding the window of opportunity and the platform – taking it beyond the traditional ‘Games and Teams’ environment and opening up areas the Olympics brand has tremendous potential in – in particular education and health.

With the changing of the guard and the new president of the IOC, who clearly is starting to shake things up, there has never been a better time to look at how TOP can evolve and step up to a new level. Bach’s Agenda 2020, which was laid forth at the IOC Session in Sochi and due for ratification by end of 2014, has the potential to totally transform the landscape – people are only just beginning to realize the full extent of the revolution in play.

Take education as an example. The big brands have explored the educational space over the years, but generally only on an ad hoc basis in host countries. But how you could take the Olympic brand and values as an overall theme and use them as a vehicle to teach everything from maths and history – that’s a really interesting, untapped opportunity. There are others of course, whether it’s doing a better job in showcasing technology stories, whether it’s properly realising the potential of the digital environment, where very little has been done from a structural standpoint. But the bottom line is that the TOPs, and potential TOPs, are up for this type of territory now and the IOC, if it wants to maintain the gold standard, needs to push these and other boundaries.

The same leap in thinking is needed as when the programme was founded in 1984, because every sponsors’ category has evolved so much. In 1984 the whole focus of the sponsorship industry was exposure. And the IOC knew the scale of the challenge: the one thing that the IOC couldn’t deliver for sponsors was exposure, because it was never going bring advertising into the venues. So the challenge was to create a programme that was meaningful to the companies without exposure. Today, the challenge is the total transformation of the various sponsors’ industries and the rise of digital and social media, and the IOC needs to raise the bar again.

Much can be done to extend the platform beyond the traditional two weeks. Not only through the amount of stories and content that the Games creates as incredible context, but also the opportunities for events and networking all year round, that USOC does very well for example. If I look back at London 2012, not in any way to take anything away from the success of the Games, but from the marketing standpoint there was zero new thinking in terms of rights and benefits. Everything new came from the sponsors, there was no innovation from LOCOG, and the IOC didn’t challenge its organising committee to raise the game.

And as well as a leap in the content of the package, there must be a leap in revenues too. From a financial perspective, if you compare TOP programme revenues now with host country revenues, there is a big disparity: local sponsors are paying much higher fees and that isn’t a one-off – the last three or four Games have all demonstrated this.

If the programme stays static on revenue and stale on content, by 2020 there will be a serious problem.

Michael Payne, February 2014.


About Michael Payne  

Michael has been at the forefront of the sports marketing industry for over thirty years. From 1983 to 2004 he led the global marketing effort for the Olympic Movement as the IOC’s first Marketing and Broadcast Rights Director, and now runs his own strategic advisory business serving a diverse group of clients including Formula 1 and Crystal Digital, where he serves as Chair of international operations.

His book ‘Olympic Turnaround’, which tells the definitive story of how the Olympic Games stepped back from the brink of bankruptcy to become a multi-billion dollar brand, has been translated into 14 languages and sold over one million copies.

By on February 25th, 2014

Tags: Beijing 2008, Default, IOC, London 2012 sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship, Pyeonchang 2018, Rio 2016, Rio 2016 Sponsorship, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultants, Tokyo 2020, Winter Olympics

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The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 5: My Ten Creative Picks

Every Olympics is always a global festival of creativity, inspiring an incredible array of work from around the world. Sochi has continued this trend, from brands inside and outside the Olympic Movement and – enabled increasingly by social media – from fans. To round off this series of posts, I’m going to celebrate this creativity with an unashamedly personal selection of ten brilliant, Sochi-inspired works. So here goes, in no particular order.

Guinness – ‘Twins’

It’s very, very rare for a brand to evoke the absolute essence of the Olympic spirit. Simple, powerful, breathtaking.

Nike – Team Canada

Even if you don’t love Canada or hockey, you’ll love this.

Visa – ‘Every Four Years, Winter Nails It’

Many brands have used winter as a theme, but Visa – which has had a great Games, innovating creatively and strategically – gets a gold medal for this one.


Canadian Insititute of Diversity & Inclusion – ‘Luge’

Five million views in two weeks: ’nuff said.

Ria Novosti – Interactive Guide To Sochi 2014′s Sports

The screengrab below doesn’t even begin to do this justice. It’s brilliant and, I warn you, highly addictive. Check it out in all its interactive glory here.


Molson Passport-Activated Beer Fridge

Along with Megafon’s MegaFaces, the on-site brand activation of Sochi 2014.

New York Times – Sochi Luge Experience

This amazing film takes you a luge at top speed down the Sochi track. Don’t watch it just after you’ve eaten. But do watch it.

NYT Luge

The Onion – Lolo Jones Becomes First American To Be Objectified In Both Winter and Summer Events

If you haven’t already, I urge you to read this piece by The Onion. Brilliantly funny and spot-on.


AFP Skeleton Helmets

Cool gear has been a thing at Sochi and I particularly loved this AFP collage of skeleton helmets.


 NASA – Sochi from space

Although there has been some stunning photography coming out of Sochi, nothing beats this shot, taken from the International Space Station 200 miles above the Olympic Park. Wow.

NASA Sochi from space

By on February 21st, 2014

Tags: Advertising, Default, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Olympics, Sochi 2014, Sponsorship consultants, Winter Olympics

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The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 4: The #Sochialympics

Back in February 2012 when Synergy coined the term #Socialympics (which subsequently went viral and was even adopted by the IOC), it was clear that the mass-adoption of social media was going to have a profound effect on London 2012. So it proved, as we discussed at our two #Socialympics panel events either side of the 2012 Games. Two years on, the effect has been no less profound on Sochi 2014, so here’s my take on some of the key moments and learnings of the #Sochialympics.

Social Ambush

As I wrote on Monday in the first of this series of posts, social media has replaced the international leg of the Torch Relay as the lightning rod for Olympic protest. For Olympic sponsors in particular, the hijacking of the McDonalds #cheerstosochi campaign should now be a key case study. (On which point, why is McDonald’s still displaying the fact that the campaign has only attracted a few thousand cheers?)

The #Sochialympics also showed how effective social is for ambushers.

My ambush gold medal goes to Zippo: Sochi’s first social ambush was also its best, a brilliant piece of reactive marketing and savvy “Who me?” PR.



Silver goes to USOC sponsor JCPenney’s #tweetingwithmittens, for ambushing the Super Bowl with the Olympics.


And bronze goes to Crowdtilt for showcasing their platform to send the Jamaican bobsledders to Sochi and leverage probably the biggest feelgood story of the Sochi Games.



#SochiSelfies and #SochiProblems    

The #SelfieOlympics was the first big web meme of the year, as I wrote in January along with a few suggestions as to what the IOC and the Olympic Movement could learn from it.

As tens of thousands of these shots were taken in bathrooms, it was pleasingly symmetrical as well as hugely entertaining that the first big #Sochialympics meme was #sochiproblems, driven by journalists’ pictures of their Sochi hotel experiences. This was then seized on by a 20 year old Canadian journalism major, whose savvy curation won his @SochiProblems Twitter handle over 330,000 followers – 60,000 more than @Sochi2014. A parable of our times.

But in the photos-in-bathroom stakes, no question that the big winner was US bobsledder Johnny Quinn, with this picture, which went viral, generated a blitz of media stories and has made him a household name in the US. 


And to bring us full circle in this particular loop, selfies have been a big thing at Sochi, with athletes – perhaps influenced by the #SelfieOlympics? – spontaneously adopting the #SochieSelfies hashtag, and many NOCs creating their own versions to drive engagement.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

With Facebook focused on its NBC tie-up, Twitter has pushed out a lot of Olympic-related content during the Games to drive attention and conversation, including collages of the most-shared photos, heatmaps of which countries are mentioning the Olympics most (I included one in my post on Monday), and infographics about medal-winning athletes’ follower growth, such as this one for GB’s Lizzie Yarnold:


In contrast to one-dimensional TV viewing figures, it’s revealed fascinating insights into local and global consumer behaviour and engagement with the Games.

The IOC has predictably reported big growth in social numbers. With an Olympic TV channel very much on the agenda – for the periods between Games – nurturing this community becomes ever more important for IOC.

Sochi 2014 CEO Dmitry Cheryshenko (@DChernyshenko) has shown top Olympic officials – and sporting officialdom generally – how to use social for the job while staying real. Same goes for Ricardo Fort of Visa (@SportByFort) when it comes to sponsors.

Under Ricardo, Visa has put much more into social in Sochi than it did in London and has got a big uplift in interactivity.

Sochi has also seen a growing contrast between ‘tweets for hire’ athletes intent on growing their followers and happy for their streams to be scripted by sponsors, versus ‘the naturals’, such as Iouri Podladtchikov – aka ‘I-Pod’ – the halfpiper who dethroned Shaun White and said:

“I really don’t care if it’s 10,000 followers or 100,000. I just want it to be me … even if it’s not selling.”      

At the other end of the scale is Maria Sharapova who, not content with her NBC and Torch-bearing duties and contractual appearances for long-term sponsors Nike and Samsung in Sochi, also cut a one-off deal for a series of posts for McDonald’s from the Games.

But this hasn’t been the #Sochialympics.

It’s been the #Tinderlympics.

Or maybe the #Grindrlympics.

By on February 20th, 2014

Tags: Ambush Marketing, Default, IOC, London 2012, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Olympic Torch Relay, Olympics, Rio 2016 Sponsorship, Rio 2016 Sponsorship Consultants, Sochi 2014, Socialympics, Sponsorship consultants, Twitter

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The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 3: X Games

Although it’s often uncomfortable territory for sporting officialdom, the ability to nurture and evolve multiple brands has to be in their toolkit. English football has the Premier League / England team / FA Cup conundrum: cricket has the Test, One Day and Twenty20 formats; rugby fifteen-a-side and sevens; tennis singles, doubles and team. And so on.

When the Olympic brand is discussed, it’s often overlooked that it’s delivered to the world every other year via two very distinct events, two very different brands – Winter and Summer.

Yes, they operate under the same ‘highest common denominator’ Olympic brand values and a similar event template, but as events and brands they are very different: different sports, different feel, different appeal.

With nation branding – or re-branding – being fundamental to modern Olympic hosting, for the Putin administration Sochi has always been designed to showcase a new Russia to the world.

But from the IOC’s point of view, what it has been about in particular is to drive up the Games’ appeal to the youth market, by adding new, ‘cooler’ events with The X Games in their DNA – a process which, as The Economist recently pointed out, has been gathering in momentum since the addition of snowboarding in 1998.

Economist Winter Olympics

It’s too early to judge to what extent the IOC has been successful, and too simplistic to say that youth marketing is all about adding cool new sports to the Winter and Summer Games (or for that matter to the struggling Youth Olympics). But as Ashling O’Connor wrote in a very good piece in The Independent last week, this could be a seminal moment for the IOC:

It has not escaped the attention of the IOC marketing department that there is a huge crossover between those who play video games and those who watch the X Games. Certainly, both wear their trousers a lot lower than they do in Lausanne. Slopestyle skiing/snowboarding and the half-pipe events, of which the ski version was also included for the first time in Sochi, are the bridge. A new generation must fall in love with the Olympics if the movement is to survive. Adapt or die. The IOC knows this full well.

IOC Sports Director Christopher Dubi had this to say on the same theme in an interview with Tripp Mickle in SportsBusiness Daily yesterday which mooted adding skateboarding and BMX halfpipe and park to Tokyo 2020:

“We should not move away from those sports that appear to be more traditional…You need probably a blend of urban-extreme sport and at the same time making sure that we have the ground covered with all the (traditional) others” Dubi said, adding slopestyle and freeskiing had been a huge benefit to the program in Sochi. Dubi said internet consumption globally was up 300 percent for the Sochi Games and viewership for slopestyle had been “tremendous…What I find interesting is it’s strong on TV, which is a good thing because it’s (where) our traditional viewers (are), but it’s also good on the internet, which is the younger generation, and these age groups have a big pickup.”

All eyes then on the IOC session in Monaco in December which will debate which sports should be added to Tokyo, and on the next chapter in new IOC President Bach’s reformist Agenda 2020, which features the Olympic programme and new approaches to Olympic audiences as key pillars.


The is the third of a 5-part series this week looking at Sochi 2014′s key marketing trends. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2. 


By on February 19th, 2014

Tags: Brand marketing, Default, Innovation, IOC, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Olympic sports, Olympics, Pyeonchang 2018, Rio 2016, Sochi 2014, Socialympics, Tokyo 2020, Vancouver 2010, Winter Olympics

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The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 2: Brand Activation Highlights

Having written yesterday about the LBGT controversy and the latest developments in IOC sponsorship, today I’m turning to the key brand activation strategies and stories around the Sochi Games.

Play Russian

Unlike a summer Olympics or a FIFA World Cup, the Winter Olympics doesn’t bring with it a big, global Nike campaign. Sochi 2014 is lower-priority and lower-spend than the World Cup for Nike, because in terms of worldwide interest, the winter Olympics is nowhere near as big as a World Cup, as illustrated by this Twitter heatmap.


Nike’s Sochi playbook has strong echoes of Vancouver 2010: focus on the host market; fusion of Nike attitude with national identity; hockey at its core (Nike sponsors the Russian, US and Canadian hockey teams). ‘Play Russian’ features Nike’s key Russian endorsees across a range of sports, led by Russian hockey icon and Games poster boy Alex Ovechkin, as well as a very cool website.

Of the other sportswear brands, the Jamaican bobsled team qualifying for Sochi was good news for Jamaican NOC sponsors Puma, but even better for adidas, when adidas-branded pictures of the Cool Runnings movie instantly flooded the web; and Under Armour has had a Games to forget, first owing to the withdrawal of Lindsey Vonn, and then by making a ton of the wrong kind of headlines about the performance of its speed skating suits.

No Logo?

The IOC famously prides itself on making the Olympics as advertising-free as possible, but the snowboarders’ gear in Sochi has been branded like no Olympics before, with the brands involved pushing the IOC’s regulations to the limit. This drew this observation at the start of the Games from our head of consulting Carsten Thode:

Carsten Sochi

Subsequently brandchannel followed up on the same subject with this very good piece: expect to see this particular loophole narrowed, if not closed, by the time we get to Pyeongchang 2018.

There was also the curious case of Alexey Sobolev, aka the Pussy Riot board artwork that wasn’t, and the cellphone number that was. Or something like that.

And while we’re on the subject, check out this very cool interactive guide to the gear of the Games by the NYT.    

The Return of the Brand Police

Games officials doing daft things as ‘brand police’ – supposedly to protect the Games’ sponsors, but actually doing the absolute reverse by creating negative stories – is a thing again in Sochi.

In London in was LOCOG’s mishandling of local butchers and bakers, and Seb Coe’s infamous ‘Pepsi t-shirts’ Today programme interview. In Sochi it’s officials covering up journalists’ laptop logos.




Sochi USA

What happens in the USA – the biggest and most valuable Olympic TV market – around every Games is always worth watching.

This time around of course, Sochi followed hot on the heels of the Super Bowl, and Bloomberg took this fascinating look at the two events as TV properties and the numbers behind NBC’s deal with the IOC, estimating that NBC will make a profit of around $100m from Sochi on revenue of $1billion, from the sale of 11,000 – yes, you read that right, eleven thousand – ads.

No surprise then that NBC put a lot of effort into marketing the Games upfront to the US consumer as well as to Madison Avenue (note the prominence of Lindsey Vonn by the way).

The sales pitch to IOC and USOC partners worked. As SportsBusiness Journal reports, fifteen Olympic sponsors are running ads on NBC during the Games, almost all of them featuring new, specially-developed creative.

But the jury is out on NBC’s ratings, even though the overall numbers are pretty impressive.


Breaking New Ground

A few sponsors’ campaigns – or elements of them – that have caught my eye in the last few weeks.

Albeit I may be biased (Synergy works for BMW in the UK) but for me the BMW campaign has really stood out from the other USOC sponsors for its depth, ambition and integration, as well as for telling and leveraging the bobsled story very skilfully. 

P&G has evolved its successful ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign, which debuted at Vancouver 2010, into Sochi, and in the week before the Games I enjoyed how P&G fused branded programming on NBC (a show called ‘How To Raise An Olympian’) with social content – check out my Storify. But – albeit it’s still generating very high engagement – how long can P&G keep ‘Thank You Mom’ going? One more Games? Two?

I’ve also really enjoyed a lot of Visa’s work. ‘Everywhere’ feels very natural in an Olympic context, some of the creative has been absolutely sensational, and the use of Vine has been original and fun. Here’s another Storify of some of the work.

I wrote a few weeks back how much I liked MegaFon’s MegaFaces, the success of which is evident from how many consumer pictures of the activation are now out there.

But my favourite on-site activation at Sochi is definitely Molson’s passport-activated beer fridge.


By on February 18th, 2014

Tags: Brazil 2014, Brazil 2014 Sponsorship, Default, IOC, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Olympics, Sochi 2014, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultants, Team GB, Vancouver 2010, Winter Olympics, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship

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The Sochi 2014 Marketing Olympics, Part 1: The (One) Issue Games

…Beijing, Vancouver, London, Sochi. Every Olympics Games evolves the Olympic brand, and evolves Olympic Marketing. With Sochi 2014 now into its second week, every day this week I’ll be taking a look at the key marketing issues, campaigns and stories of the latest edition of the Marketing Olympics, kicking off today with the LBGT controversy and the latest developments in IOC sponsorship.

The (One) Issue Games 

The run-up to every Olympics is always full of negative headlines and controversy, and Sochi was no exception, but with one issue absolutely dominant: the global protests against Russia’s anti-gay legislation, led by POTUS’s decision back in December to stay away from Sochi and to nominate Billie-Jean King in the US delegation, rising to a crescendo of campaigns and stories in the final weeks pre-Games.

Inevitably, these saw Games sponsors targeted both by campaigners and the media, in particular McDonalds, whose global #CheersToSochi campaign was hijacked so powerfully on social media that McDonalds has effectively withdrawn it, now barely referencing it in its comms, with the campaign website registering only a few thousand cheers – not exactly what McDonalds would have had in mind.

Cheers To Sochi website

Re-wind to Beijing 2008, the last ‘issue’ Games, when global protests about China’s human rights record targeted the international sections of Olympic Torch Relay, prompting the IOC to limit the Torch Relay to host countries only.

But who needs Torch Relay demos when you now have globally-distributed social media?

And why has the IOC done so little to publicly engage with the issue? President Bach’s Opening Ceremony speech was to be applauded, but was too little, too late.

Problem not solved.

And protests not going away.

The ethics of how Mega Events are awarded, where they are staged, and what they are for, is not going away for the IOC or FIFA. Next after the Sochi Olympics comes the 2014 FIFA World Cup, already highly controversial in Brazil and sure to see more of the protests which marked last year’s Confederations Cup and saw FIFA sponsors’ and other brands’ campaigns hijacked. Following which we have Rio 2016 and Russia 2018, with Qatar 2022 – already the most controversial World Cup of all time – ever-present in the background.

What Sochi 2014 has again proved, if further proof were needed, is that the IOC must radically overhaul its approach to protest and how it handles controversy, if it is to safeguard and evolve the Olympic brand and create a positive environment for its sponsors and NOC sponsors worldwide. Not to mention justify an increased price tag for TOP deals, of which more below.

Meanwhile, not much doubt that the LBGT protests have produced the ad of the Games. When I first spotted and tweeted it a couple of weeks back it had only 4,000 views on YouTube: now, that’s grown to over 5 million and quite right too. Sensational.

2024 At The Double

The IOC has announced two extensions to TOP deals during Sochi: Atos, to 2020, and Panasonic, in a move which took everybody by surprise, to 2024.

Patrick Nally hit the nail on the head.


Panasonic was widely expected to extend, particularly after Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Games, but only to 2020, in line with the other global Olympic sponsors, and to allow for a much-mooted IOC review of the TOP programme post-Sochi.

Where the Panasonic extension leaves all that is now the big issue in Olympic sponsorship, particularly as it is also now being reported by SportsBusiness Journal (SBJ) that the contract is worth $350m-$400m, thereby doubling TOP prices in the most recent deal cycle.

SBJ has underlined its position as the must-read for anyone in the business with some great reporting from Sochi by Tripp Mickle on IOC sponsorship issues. Both these are worth a read:

Outgoing chair of the IOC Marketing Commission Gerhard Heiberg interviewed. Interestingly, he calls out Samsung as the deal which has added the most value to a TOP sponsor.

The IOC has stopped the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee from projecting sponsors’ logos on the outside of some of the Sochi arenas in view of TV broadcasters’ cameras.

Tripp also had some nice takes on Twitter on new IOC President Thomas Bach’s appearances at sponsors’ showcases in Sochi:

Tripp Bach Sochi tweets

The days of Jacques Rogge are well and truly over.


By on February 17th, 2014

Tags: Beijing 2008, Brazil 2014, Default, IOC, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Rio 2016, Rio 2016 Sponsorship, Sochi 2014, Social Media, Socialympics, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultants, Winter Olympics, World Cup, World Cup Sponsorship

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Ex John Hancock CEO on Olympic sponsorship and the IOC

In the latest SportsBusiness Journal, there’s a brilliant interview by SBJ’s Executive Editor Abe Madkour with David D’Alessandro, the former CEO of John Hancock Financial Services. D’Alessandro, a larger than life character who was a big and often controversial voice in sports sponsorship during his career (he retired in 2004), is fascinating and entertaining: on business, on being a CEO, and in particular on his attitude to sponsorship and John Hancock’s time as a global partner of the IOC – much of it very timely stuff given recent events in and around Sochi 2014. With Abe’s kind permission, I’ve reproduced some of the key passages from the interview below.

D’Alessandro on his sponsorship philosophy:

“Go big or go home. That’s my philosophy…Most companies are looking to increase market share. So how do you make yourself look three times bigger than you really are? By sponsoring something big and driving its revenue. Go big or go home.”

On successfully executing a sponsorship:

“Successful sponsorships don’t come from the brand people. It comes from the top, leadership at the company. The brand people don’t sit around the big table. They are all over at the kids’ table…You can’t go big unless leadership goes big. So you need to spend your time on the leadership first. You need access to the very top people.”

On getting buy-in to the John Hancock IOC sponsorship:

There wasn’t buy-in at first. In any corporation, you have a lot of marketing programs. This division, that division, this product line, that sales force – and each of them has this little empire, and in that empire they have something they like doing. This guy is sponsoring a Little League team. this guy has a lead-generation program, this guy has some advertising gig. And they all think they are the most important. A strong CEO says: ‘You know what? We are spending $80 million a year if you add it all up.’ Smart marketers say, ‘How do I get everybody under the same roof?’ You’ll never convince them. You’ll never get consensus. You have to dictate it. You have to say. ‘We are going to sponsor this. All you get in line. We are doing the Olympics…so get in line. Get rid of your contracts. I want everybody here.’ And then what happens is, ‘Oh my God, it starts to work.’”

On the success of the John Hancock IOC sponsorship:

“Our sales were going up…We had a common marketing program that everybody could get on board with. We weren’t spending any more money than we used to, but our name recognition was going way up and we were getting into deals we couldn’t get into. And we were attracting sales people that would sell for other companies and other brokers that wouldn’t sell for us before. We had record sales the years we were with the Olympics. Now, do I think it’s all because of the Olympics? No. Do I think it helped us? I certainly do…[it also helped land major deals in China and Japan when the company entered those markets.] Being an Olympic sponsor is a big deal in many parts of the world.” 

On his strategy during the Salt Lake scandal [In 1999 reports emerged accusing members of the IOC of taking bribes from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee during the bid process for the 2002 Winter Games. The allegations dominated the headlines and sparked multiple investigations, and D’Alessandro was a lone voice in the sponsorship community calling for the IOC to take action. He repeatedly and publicly criticized the body for system failure, making him a very polarizing figure — so much so that NBC Sports’ Dick Ebersol publicly called him a “bully” and stated he should “shut up.”]

Does he regret being so outspoken? “Why would I have regrets? They pissed me off. They lied. When the bribery issue first started, the IOC called me and told me, ‘In two weeks, this whole thing will be done.’ Then it became clear that they were covering this up and wanted to sweep it under the rug. What bothered me about it, and it seemed pretty fundamental, is that I actually grew up believing in the Olympics. I still do.  At Hancock, our product offering was very simple. Whether it was mutual funds or investment funds or insurance, you give us your money, and when you come to get it, it will be in bettershape. You’ll have more money. Trust us. TRUST us. I didn’t do the Olympic deal to be in bed with someone whose brand was, ‘Don’t trust us.’ And it was not trustworthy. We were the only one of the big sponsors who was really tapping into the ‘trust’ factor. I’m paying you $40 million or $50 million and you look immoral. Our research and surveys were starting to show that our sales competition was saying, ‘You are going to buy from those guys?’

On why he didn’t cancel the John Hancock IOC sponsorship:

He says he refused to just drop the sponsorship, even though it would have been the easy PR fix. Instead, he fought for changes. “Let’s say we simply dropped the sponsorship, which would be the corporate thing to do, which we could’ve done with our [morals] clause. But you’ve got six to eight years invested in it already. So that’s $300 [million] to $400 million invested in this thing, including advertising. So I’m going to drop it? Really? If a company drops a sponsorship, that guy who pushed it is dead; a dead man walking inside the company. They don’t stay. So I’ve got $300 [million] to $400 million invested in the Olympics. What am I supposed to do? Say ‘he’ made a mistake? ‘I’ made a mistake? You stick it out.”  He says he’s still surprised more people didn’t speak up. “Of the sponsors, I was the only CEO involved.” He picks at his salad and looks back at me. “It was by keeping their feet to the fire that they made a lot of changes. They weren’t ready to do that.” And it did lead to reform: There was the expulsion of several IOC members and adoption of new IOC rules. “I saw Jacques Rogge in 2002, and he said to me, ‘I didn’t like it at the time, but you did a great thing for us by keeping us alert.’ The IOC has no tolerance for scandal now. If there was a scandal in the IOC, it would be handled much more quickly.”

On his worst Olympic experience:

“Atlanta put on a terrible Olympic Games,” he says. “I was there for a week. It was like having a circus. They weren’t ready for prime time. It was over-commercialized. It was the worst of Americana, and it really turned off a European-centric IOC. The IOC learned something from that. They learned the Atlanta presentation was great, but you can’t pick these things on presentations. So they put much more solid teams in place to go around and look at the cities and facilities.”

The full interview can be viewed here. Believe me, it’s worth your time.

By on February 12th, 2014

Tags: Default, IOC, Olympic sponsorship, Sochi 2014, Sponsorship, Sponsorship consultancy

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How brands are activating the Sochi 2014 Olympics

‘We’re not seeing sponsors go hard in the UK because we’re not a winter sports nation…[but] in the US, the biggest and most important Olympic market, Sochi will be huge’.

Tim Crow talks to Marketing magazine about how Olympic sponsors are activating Sochi 2014. Click here for the article.

By on February 4th, 2014

Tags: Beijing 2008, London 2012, London 2012 sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship, Olympic sponsorship consultants, Olympics, Press Clipping, Sochi 2014, Sponsorship, Team GB, Winter Olympics

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#Synergy30: Patrick Nally on the Future Of Sponsorship

Foreword by Tim Crow, CEO Synergy 

2014 marks Synergy’s 30th year in business. No small achievement, and we’re very proud to have played our part in the transformation of the sports and entertainment marketing industry in that time, and, above all, to have worked with so many amazing people and organisations. To all of you, but in particular to our people and our clients past and present, we thank you and salute you!

Naturally, we wanted to do something to celebrate and to share #Synergy30 (of course, there’s a hashtag), but rather than looking back, true to the innovation that has defined us throughout our 30 years, we’re going to look forward at the future of sports and entertainment marketing. And so, every month throughout 2014, we’ll be bringing you a specially-created and timely piece of content on that theme, some made by us, some made by friends of the company.

So, to get #Synergy30 started, who better than the legendary Patrick Nally, the man who back in the 1970s created the sponsorship model for global events, to consider the future of sponsorship. And, in a thoughtful and hard-hitting piece, to preserve and enrich the salience of sponsorship, he calls for radical and total re-think of the global sporting ecosystem that his sponsorship model did so much to create.

Enjoy, and please feel free to comment below and share on the social network of your choice, using #Synergy30. Over to Patrick…

Patrick Nally

There is a grave danger that unless we respond to the changed social landscape, sponsorship will be questioned, challenged and threatened with radical decline. Brazil, the host of both the next World Cup and Olympics, is facing a social uprising challenging why the Government is funding mega events and not social investment, creating a questionable sponsorship environment. And every major event, Sochi 2014 being the latest, also sees questions raised about the involvement and influence of sponsors, with certain categories as lightning rods.

When I started West Nally my focus was on using sport as a communication medium. It had to change when I was asked to find a commercial solution to fund the emerging International Sports Federations. The key to the West Nally approach was to create a deliverable package of sponsorship rights to be sold exclusively to global partners in non-competing business and commercial categories. It demanded a fresh mindset from governing bodies and event hosts, who had previously struggled to manage commercial activities. West Nally went on to work with most of the world’s major governing bodies including FIFA, the IOC, IAAF, IFB, and ITF, and the programmes West Nally developed in the 1970s effectively became the blueprint for sports sponsorship and remain so today.

Coca-Cola became the first official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup at the 1978 tournament in Argentina.

It’s difficult to understand why our approach has lasted so long, especially when ‘the package’ was not designed to meet the sponsor’s objectives, but to maximize the rightsholder’s revenue. It is also difficult to comprehend that those very organisations have never seriously debated this old approach, concentrating on renewing and extending their existing contracts for as long, and for as much, as they could.

In many respects the world is almost unrecognisable to that of the 1970s when West Nally was launched. It has been transformed by technology, by the emergence of new economies and of vibrant nations with a desire to play a major and responsible role on the world stage. It is a world of fantastic opportunity but also of major challenges, including concerns about the health of a generation of less active young people. But one thing which has not changed is the world’s passion for sport which, thanks to developments in media, is now more universally available than ever before. Sport is a significant and positive force in business and in society, but we have to accept that as the world has changed, that the established ways of doing things may no longer be appropriate or effective.

If we want the sports marketing industry to continue to grow, it needs to be directly involved in the debate and examination of the relationships between sports and the worlds of commerce, education, technology, governments and politics and society in general. It is essential that a new roadmap be produced with fresh guidance for all stakeholders. It is important that the Industry encourages International Federations to accept that the resources and expertise of the Industry, as well as leading commercial organisations (sponsors), National Governments, Universities, Academics, media and content conglomerates, should combine to positively review a new approach.

Many of the models for the governance of sport, its relationship with sponsors and the world of business, for bidding for and hosting major events, and sport’s role in education and society in general, were established many years ago and need to be tested and re-evaluated against the realities of a world which has been shrunk by technology, but which continues to create new social challenges.

Sports Ministers from more than 130 countries recently issued The Berlin Declaration, which publicly underscored their joint determination to ensure that sport is accessible to all as a matter of right, to promote public investment in physical education, and to review the whole approach to the hosting of Mega Events. To do that, we have to understand exactly how sport fits into our 21st century world and to develop themes and specific strategies to ensure it remains positive, relevant and engaging to all stakeholders – especially to sponsors.

The new roadmap needs to redefine the relationship between sport and commercial partners, to maximise the role and benefit of sport at every level of education. To explore the beneficial relationship between sport and technology. To identify new and more relevant forms of best practice in the governance of sport. To consider the rationale for hosting major sports events and the expectations of governing bodies. To consider the relationship between sport and all elements of traditional and social media. To consider the legal status of sport, its events and athletes and the relevance and effectiveness of existing procedures. To measure, record and address the attitudes of young people to sport. To assess the changing value of sport as a medium and entertainment property alongside other cultural and artistic activities.

A challenging, but essential task.

Patrick Nally, January 2014.

Picture credit: AFP/Getty

About Patrick Nally

Patrick Nally is widely acknowledged as the ‘founding father’ of modern sports marketing.

With BBC presenter and sports commentator Peter West, Patrick founded the West Nally Group in 1969 as a public relations agency with a specialized sporting events mandate. With West as chairman and managing director Nally its driving force, the company would go on to redefine the sports business by pioneering the offering to blue chip companies of exclusive, off-the-shelf packages of sponsorship rights to the world’s largest sports tournaments on behalf of the world’s leading sports federations.

In 1976, on brokering an agreement to sponsor the FIFA World Cup, the company assured its reputation as a leading innovator within the expanding sports marketing field. Employing over 400 staff in 14 offices across 11 countries in its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, West Nally has served as partner to, among others, the IOC, FIFA, UEFA, the Davis Cup and Federation Cup in tennis, the Hockey World Cup, the International Swimming Federation (FINA), the International Rowing Federation (FISA), the International Cycling Union (UCI), the International Association of Athletics Federations, and the FIS World Ski Cup.

Still very much involved with the development of major sports, in 2009 Nally took up the lead in promoting poker as a mind sport on a global stage. As the current President of the International Federation of Poker (IFP), founded in Lausanne, Switzerland, home of the Olympic movement and most other sports federations, it is his intention to champion poker as a game of strategic skill, alongside chess, bridge, draughts and Go. With more than 50 member nations, IFP promotes the game through its unique Match Poker format, which eliminates the luck of draw and utilises smartphones instead of physical cards. While the size and scope of IFP keeps expanding, the goal remains the same: to promote the educational, social and respectable values of poker as a mind sport.

For some years, Patrick has also been working with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to assist in establishing relationships with international sport federations and explore ways of using sport as a portal for education. Patrick is a lecturer and touring fellow of the World Academy of Sport and a past Academic Director of the IE Business School in Madrid’s Master in Sports Management teaching the use of sport as the ultimate communications medium.

By on January 31st, 2014

Tags: Default, Rio 2016 Sponsorship, Rio 2016 Sponsorship Consultants, Sochi 2014, Sponsorship consultancy, Sponsorship consultants, Synopsis, World Cup Sponsorship, World Cup Sponsorship Consultants

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