How London helped to shape the modern Olympic movement
We all know that London will be hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, but how many of us know that years ago London played a pivotal role in helping the Olympics to become the commercial success it is today?
In London back in the 1970s my company, West Nally, agreed to help the British Olympic Association (BOA) seek commercial support for the first time.
"How many of us know that years ago London played a pivotal role in helping the Olympics to become the commercial success it is today?"
The BOA needed UK£500,000 to cover the cost of attendance at the 1976 summer Olympic Games in Montreal, and our approach was to launch a sponsored ‘appeal’. We were able to convince the British Petroleum Company to cover the costs of the campaign and the launch of a sponsorship programme which enabled the BOA to achieve its target.
The BOA secured support from 27 companies through the appeal, all of which became involved in some form of promotional Olympic activity, including on-pack promotions by Kraft Foods, chocolate wrapper collection schemes by Cadbury, and customer visits to the Olympic Games by the Watney Mann brewery and Golden Wonder Crisps.
This began the direct support of National Olympic Committees (NOC) by commercial companies and fundamental to the BOA’s fundraising success was the creation of a national ‘Olympic symbol’, which raised both the national profile of the Great Britain Olympic team and general interest in the Olympics themselves. Because this ‘symbol’ needed approval from both the BOA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it established a precedent for other NOCs and created the impetus for them to replicate this commercial approach, leading to the need for legal protection for the Olympic rings.
Having worked with numerous NOCs in the ‘70s, West Nally were asked to prepare a marketing approach for the Organising Committee of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow. In this presentation, we were able to show both the IOC and the Moscow Organising Committee that only three per cent of the revenue of 1976 Montreal Games came from sponsorship, product supply and licensing. This indicated to the Olympic Movement for the fi rst time the need for the total worldwide coordination of the Olympic Games marketing rights.
It also outlined the need for NOCs to accept the logic of unity in approaches to multinational companies and illustrated how this could be encouraged through direct presentations to each NOC, emphasising that substantial income for both the Games organisers and the NOCs could be achieved with very little effort required by the NOCs. This presentation was the foundation of what was to become the IOC TOP Programme.
Although Moscow did not adopt all of West Nally’s recommendations, they did involve us in a number of commercial activities, which were then badly hit by the USA’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. The greatest challenge this created for me personally was the loss of Levi Strauss as a major sponsor. It had contracted to provide sponsorship funds as well as 64,000 jeans and jackets for Moscow’s uniform agreement, and I found myself in a position where it had the legal ability to cancel its agreement with West Nally but West Nally had no such ability to cancel the corresponding agreement with Moscow.
"It was also prior to the Samaranch election that we became involved in securing the 1984 Games for Los Angeles and in establishing, with the LA Organising Committee, the whole concept of exclusive Olympic marketing"
It therefore seemed almost like divine intervention when ‘Jesus Jeans’ came to my rescue and stepped in, securing for Italian company Robe di Kappa some significant manufacturing opportunities in Russia.
Initially, West Nally worked closely with IOC president Lord Killanin and general secretary Monique Berlioux, but greater emphasis was placed on commercial marketing upon the 1980 election of Juan Antonio Samaranch as IOC president. Mr Samaranch was working closely with Fifa president João Havelange so knew much about Fifa’s new commercial approach.
It was also prior to the Samaranch election that we became involved in securing the 1984 Games for Los Angeles and in establishing, with the LA Organising Committee, the whole concept of exclusive Olympic marketing. West Nally worked with Tom Keller, the then president of GAISF, FISA and Swiss Timing. LA had lost out on the 1976 Games to Montreal and we were asked by mayor Tom Bradley and his team to collaborate on the bid.
Despite LA being a ‘sole’ candidate, the Olympics were going through signifi cant turmoil, with Soviet attempts to embarrass the US, and past Olympic cities like Montreal and Munich keen to host again.
By bringing mayor Bradley to Athens during meetings of both the International Sport Federations and the IOC, we were able to consolidate the bid, secure the LA contract for Swiss Timing and establish the principles of ‘central Olympic marketing’. 18 months after LA secured the Games, Peter Ueberroth was recruited by the Organising Committee and he oversaw the first successful ‘commercial’ games despite the Soviet boycott.
West Nally continued working with future Games candidates, including Seoul and Calgary, the two cities that bid successfully to host the 1988 summer and winter Olympic Games respectively. It was then that we recommended moving the summer and winter Games two years apart on a four-year cycle, as this would give corporate sponsors a better spread and return for their investment, which would be more commercially attractive. The IOC voted for this change in 1986.
Patrick Nally is known as one of the founding fathers of the sports business industry. Through the company he co-founded in 1970, West Nally, he all but invented the concept of sports marketing, packaging rights, creating events and forging commercial relationships between all manner of sports and multinational companies.
This article originally appeared in the March 2012 edition of SportsPro. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.
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