If there is one sponsorship program that best enables multiple brands to sustained exposure in front of a worldwide audience, it has to be the IOC sponsorship program. So much so, it would seem, that an entire legal analysis (Phillip Johnson, "Ambush Marketing") was published on the cat and mouse game between sponsorship and ambush marketing, with the Olympic Games clearly in mind.
In one of the maddening aspects of online reporting, the two Bloomberg accounts ("Procter & Gamble Signs Global Sponsorship Through 2020", July 28th, here and "Olympics Chief Rogge Says Sponsorships Improve as IOC Signs P&G", July 29th here) offer complementary accounts of a sort about the addition of P&G to the IOC sponsorship stable (financial terms, however, not disclosed). This came in the heels of the sponsorship agreement of July 17th between Dow Chemical and the IOC.
At least with respect to the 2012 Olympics, which will take place in London, in addition to Dow Chemicals and P&G, the sponsors are Coca-Cola, Acer, Atros Origin (I think that they mean the IT company Atos Origin), General Electric, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung and Visa. As explained by Rogge, the IOC President, with 11 sponsors on board, the IOC wants to add one more sponsor. "We will not go beyond 12 because otherwise we would start diluting the message and the activities," he said. "We are discussing with a number of companies and there are a number of issues in the pipeline but still nothing finally confirmed." Whatever the marketing value of being one of a limited number of Olympic sponsors, the IOC is reported to have raised nearly one billion dollars for sponsorships for the four-year period running through 2014.
What do we make of this sponsorship list? I have a few thoughts:
1. The dark days of 2008-2009 seem, for the moment, to be behind us. I particularly reemember the decision of Kodak, a long-time sponsor, to end its sponsorship after the 2008 Olympics. I attributed that decision to both the financial challenges facing the company and the remixing of their products (unlike the days when the mark was identified with film for cameras), such that exposure (I know--bad pun) of the Olympic kind was no longer attractive.2. While Asian companies are prominently found on the list, none is Chinese or Indian. That suggests that, at the mega-level of the Olympic Games, Chinese or Indian companies with global reach are not the sort for which massive consumer exposure is yet valued. Of course the day will come when companies from these countries (and other emerging economic powers) will begin to serve as sponsors for the Olympic Games. When that happens, the interesting question is whether Olympic sponsorship will be a clarion call that "we have made it", or whether it will reflect a marketing bet by one or more such companies to invest in the Olympic platform to reach the next marketing level.3. The P&G agreement seems different to the other sponsors in the sense that P&G will have to decide which of their product brands--e.g., Pampers diapers or Gillette shavers--will be featured. The answer may well differ depending on the situs of the event, and the perceived markets that are being targeted for these products. Whatever the ultimate decision, the branding activities of P&G will differ from most of the other sponsors, which will more likely focus on promoting their house mark in connection with certain product lines.4. Away from the spotlight of the Olympic Games, I wonder how sponsorships will play out in less widely covered sporting events. In particular, I am curious about the sponsorship program in connection with the 19th Commonwealth Games, set to take place in New Delhi in two months time. At the least, it might give an indication of where future Olympic sponsors will come, as well as a window into the kinds of products and services that are viewed as appropriate for the viewing (Indian?) audience. If any readers have information on this, this Kat would be delighted to hear about it.