Sydney sponsors stay

Sydney sponsors stay

The Sydney Olympics has survived a crisis of confidence among sponsors.

Its big corporate supporters, Australian and multi-national, are staying loyal despite the shadows of sleaze cast over the 2000 Games.

In fact, the Sydney Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (SOCOG) has had more complaints and questions from sponsors about marketing than morality.

It seems that big business is so used to operating in a world in which corners are cut and favours are traded that the recent dismissal or resignation of a dozen International Olympic Committee members after allegations of corruption was more tolerable than marketing mishaps.

Sydney Games sponsors paying up to $60 million each to be linked with the Games complain that they are often treated more like benefactors than business partners.

SOCOG marketing manager John Moore says “the strengths and weaknesses of our partnerships” are monitored. IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, has personally telephoned the CEOs of sponsoring companies to assure them the IOC will change in the wake of recent scandal and start reforms to repair its damaged image.

Sponsors Coca-Cola and Visa are the most critical of the IOC, and insurance company John Hancock and the US Postal Service also went public about their concern to see the organisation modernised to make it more accountable.

The director of the Athens organising committee for the 2004 Games, Costas Bakouris, says sponsors are slow to commit money after recent IOC scandals. Greece initially expected A$316 million to be earned from local sponsors. But there seem to be drachma delays.

The multi-national car company Daimler-Chrysler says it expects the IOC to “introduce openness and clarity so that no doubts remain about its work”.

The company supplies cash and cars worth more than $2 million a year to the IOC, including Mercedes at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Daimler wants the IOC to be more open about its operations, including possibly showing its accounts to independent auditors. Daimler still plans to anchor a luxury liner in Sydney Harbour during the Games to host key “networking” functions.

Multi-nationals consider world sports events – like the Olympics, Wimbledon tennis, World Soccer Cup, US Open Golf championships – as opportunities to gain or increase prestige and meet competitors and partners.

As one executive says “Sydney 2000 is not just a sporting event – it will be a world meeting, a stockmarket for business contacts and negotiations”.

Games sponsors get tickets, invitations, access, media attention, and marketing levers – all worth keeping, unless foul play outweighs fair sport.

So far Sydney 2000 is retaining its sponsors and keeping its financial head above water – but, like the IOC, it cannot afford another crisis between now and September 2000.

COPYRIGHT 1999 First Charlton Communications Pty Ltd.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group