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Olympic opportunities

Business find link to Games is naturally beneficial

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For 17 days every couple years, it is the world's biggest billboard, the biggest party, the biggest networking opportunity for a select group of businesses.

A multimillion-dollar marketing blitz to correspond with a sporting event that could only be called Olympic.

Corporate support for the Olympic Games is an integral part of the success of the event, and that includes the Salt Lake Games. In fact, within the maelstrom of the bid scandal, finding that support never was more important — or more challenging.

Salt Lake Organizing Committee managing director of marketing Mark Lewis said SLOC is on target to meet its $859 million goal, but the road has been slow going.

"We are confident that we will meet our original targets," Lewis said. "But yes, we can always use another sponsor.

"The scandal wasn't about the Olympics," he said. "It was about the bureaucrats. But it meant that people were a little more cautious, and they wanted to find out more information. So it extended our selling cycle. Where before if it had taken three months to sell a deal, here it took five."

And yet businesses have come forward to lend their resources to the Olympic movement — from longtime sponsors like Visa and Xerox to locals like Norbest and O.C. Tanner. Each has found a way to take part, from the deep-pocketed multinationals to the rural Utah turkey processor.

The 6 degrees of corporate support

The Olympic Partners (TOP) sponsor — TOP sponsors like Coca-Cola Co., John Hancock and Xerox pay an undisclosed amount for worldwide marketing rights, usually in multi-Games deals. The program is administered by the International Olympic Committee and benefits the world's 198 national Olympic committees like the U.S. Olympic Committee. SLOC also receives a portion of the proceeds.

TOP sponsors are mum about just how much they spend, but Terry Dillman of Xerox said the rewards are worth the money. Xerox reportedly has invested in the $50 million range for its sponsorship and is the sole document provider for the Games.

"It's the world's most known and respected athletic event," said Dillman, Xerox manager of worldwide Olympic marketing. "We wanted to be a part of something that had such positive public perception. And it also gives us a great opportunity to showcase our people and our technology."

Perhaps most importantly, however, Dillman said the company's TOP sponsor status allows Xerox to bring its best clients in for a little "relationship building."

"Our customer relationship building is key for us at a time when we are being careful about how we spend our

money," he said. "We try to bring in as many of our top 100 customers as we can, who together are responsible for more than 40 percent of our revenue. We feel it's a way to thank them and continue to build those relationships, to talk about solutions we may provide."

Olympic Properties of the United States (OPUS) Program — There are three programs jointly administered by the USOC and SLOC, which give businesses varying marketing rights depending on how much they invest. None are as flexible or unfettered as the TOP sponsors, however. OPUS marketing rights are limited to the United States and the U.S. Olympic team.

OPUS partners — Partners contribute in excess of $50 million in cash and in-kind services or products, Lewis said. There currently are six partners, including Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc.

Qwest spokeswoman Caroline Roemer estimated the telecommunications company has invested about $100 million in Games infrastructure — a fiber optic network, 15 mini-central offices connecting the various venues and new cell site locations.

For Qwest, the Olympic partnership was an inheritance from US WEST (which it acquired in June 2000) and a way to broaden Qwest's visibility.

"The Olympics is one of the largest multivenue events in the world," Roemer said. "For Qwest to have the opportunity to provide the backbone of communication is exciting. It's an opportunity to showcase Qwest and to show our stuff."

OPUS sponsors — Sponsors contribute between $20 million and $50 million, Lewis said. Some companies that signed on late were able to receive the sponsor designation with smaller payments, he said, because they were unable to benefit from the buzz surrounding the Nagano and Sydney Games.

Sponsors include Utah companies like Marker Sportswear and NuSkin/Pharmanex — and the first-ever dot-com sponsor, Monster.com.

Monster.com will provide online career management services to SLOC, the USOC and U.S. Olympic athletes.

Peter Blacklow, Monster.com senior vice president of marketing, said the company was looking for its next big advertising opportunity after making a smashing debut with its "When I Grow Up" commercial during the 1999 Super Bowl.

The Olympics provided that opportunity, Blacklow said.

"Certainly, the Olympics stood out," he said. "It doesn't really get any more blue chip than the Olympics."

The company examined the different sponsorship levels and decided it didn't need to be an OPUS partner, Blacklow said.

"We saw a big difference between being a sponsor and a supplier in terms of how you can talk about your sponsorship, and what you can do," he said. "We didn't see a lot of difference between being a sponsor and a partner.

"Being able to refer to yourself as an official sponsor held a lot of weight in our mind. It gives us a lot more credibility. We're in good company as sponsors."

Other sponsors include Gateway computers and The Home Depot.

OPUS suppliers — Suppliers contribute between $2.5 million and $20 million and include several Utah companies: KSL Television and Radio, Modern Display, Questar, Smith's, Utah Power and O.C. Tanner.

"When you look at our corporate partners, we've had a lot of Utah companies that have stepped forward," SLOC's Lewis said. "Great companies, which have really come forward with significant sums of money to help fund these Games. And there's no question that without their support we would not have been successful in reaching our targets, which are necessary to hosting these Games successfully."

Licensees — O.C. Tanner has the distinction of serving dual roles, as an OPUS supplier (of team rings for the U.S. contingent and Olympic medals) and licensee (for precious metals, jewelry and gifts). Cyndie Rodman, executive vice president of marketing and business development for O.C. Tanner, said the company made a strategic decision in both categories.

As a licensee, Rodman said the company's investment may reach $10 million. But, she said, "what we stand to get out of it is substantially greater."

As a supplier, Rodman said O.C. Tanner was a logical fit.

"It was a wonderful strategic fit for us and a wonderful way to brand our company on a world stage," she said. "We are in the recognition business, and this is recognition in its most visible form. It's all about the athletes. It's about the recognition of their extraordinary endeavors."

Still, Rodman said the company decided to go with the lowest level of OPUS involvement and still qualify to provide the medals.

"Our goal was to provide those and other forms of recognition," she said. "That provided the grounding for our participation level. We're certainly not at the high end. We're a small company. We're just hoping to spread awareness of who our company is, beyond our own little industry niche."

Donors — Nearly 100 individuals and businesses have come forward without expectation of marketing rights to donate their resources to the Salt Lake Games. Included among them are Jon M. Huntsman, and Utah-based Norbest.

Norbest agreed to donate cash and 50,000 pounds of turkey products, which will be distributed at competition venues, hospitality centers and media facilities.

"Norbest is certainly a great situation, because we had a need for some of their food products," Lewis said. "They don't get any marketing rights or other benefits. It's really a charitable act, a much different proposition than our suppliers, sponsors, partners and TOP sponsors."

But for Norbest, donating to the 2002 Games was a way to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime event, Norbest senior vice president John Hall said.

"We are proud to host the Games and proud to be a part of the business climate here in Utah," Hall said. "We just wanted to be a part of the Olympic movement and to put our best foot forward in hosting the world."

E-mail: jnii@desnews.com