Has IOC approach kept pace with change?

Patrick Nally, co-founder of West Nally, has pioneered innovation in the sports marketing industry throughout his career.

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128 | SportsProMedia.com THE LAST WORD
Has IOC approach kept pace with change?
Patrick Nally
Without a shadow of doubt,
the London 2012 Olympic
Games have been an
extraordinary success.
The venues, events and spectator support
have all been exceptional, and the UK’s
investment into elite sports has paid
huge dividends if success is judged by the
Olympic medal table.
The support of the nation snowballed as
the torch relay toured the country over 69
days, resulting in a crescendo of cheering
and noise which rolled in waves over the
events and athletes at all Olympic venues.
There was passion and excitement and
a vibrancy in the air in London, which
lived up to all our expectations of what an
Olympic host city should be.
It is true that this feeling of euphoria
was not shared everywhere. In Australia,
for example, because the media’s
expectation of medal success was so high,
nothing less than gold was acceptable
and athletes who gave an incredible
performance to win silver or bronze were
met with disappointment and not the
credit and plaudits they deserved.
One reason for Australia’s lack of gold
medals, voiced by one of the country’s
broadcasting team, was a reduced
investment in Australia’s elite sports
programme which meant the top coaches
could earn more money working with
other nations. This is very reminiscent of
my early Olympic days when the USSR
and GDR dominated the Olympic medal
table due to massive investment in elite
sports. Performance, achievement and
being the best in the world matters, but is
this elite approach necessarily consistent
with the Olympic ‘ideals’ and is it really all
about the medal count?
Having been involved with my fi rst
Olympic Games back in 1972, there is no
question that London’s hosting has set
new standards in organisation, structure
and quality and we have been reminded
just how extraordinary an organisation the
International Olympic Committee (IOC) is.
It still astounds me to see so many
senior politicians, corporate giants and
top celebrities all clambering to be part of
the Olympic experience. Undoubtedly this
‘who’s who’ of the world’s most important
people brings its own magic and kudos to
the event but has it gone too far? Should
there be less preoccupation with Olympic
lanes, fi ve-star hotels, celebrity functions
and parties and more focus on resolving
some of the practical issues and concerns
that were evident before the Games
started and will still be there afterwards?
Has the IOC’s marketing approach kept
up with the times?
We have already seen a substantial shift
in the value of the commercial agreements
being secured by the IOC compared to
the local organising committee (OCOG).
Consider Bradesco (US$700m) and Nissan
(US$250m) for Rio 2016, and the IOC’s
TOP sponsors Coca-Cola (US$100m) and
Visa (US$100m) for London 2012 and
Sochi 2014 combined. This growth in
domestic sponsor value is extraordinary.
Also, is it time for the IOC to rethink
its ‘clean stadia’ policy? Does this policy
create more issues than it resolves?
Protecting the ‘clean stadia’ policy forces
companies to fi nd other ways to exploit
and get value for their investment in the
Games, often resulting in them being much
more aggressive in generating value from
marketing programmes, especially around
tickets and hospitality, than perhaps would
be needed if given in-stadia exposure.
Equally the host city may feel that
it is having a thoroughly magnifi cent
experience but the drums are beating
in the heart of London where retailers,
restaurateurs, traders and taxi drivers are
all up in arms about the substantial losses
in their day-to-day business, some believing
they were duped by London and Locog.
Perhaps the offi cial IOC Olympic
entourage, the sponsors and all the
NOCs’ hospitality houses should vacate
‘downtown’ for a campus alongside the
Olympic Park. By combining all this
‘energy’ you could create an environment
that could perhaps help to resolve many
of the NOCs’ funding issues as well as the
ticketing and hospitality issues
Indeed, is there already a chink in the
armour of the IOC’s ‘clean stadia’ policy?
The technical equipment, competitors’
clothing and shoes were all testing the
Olympics’ commercial ideal of ‘being
clean’ but for me one of biggest shocks
of the Games was seeing the remotecontrolled
electric BMW Mini on the
infi eld collecting javelins, shots and
discuses. One must question whether the
visibility of the BMW Mini brand – a
Locog sponsor – was an infringement of
the ‘clean stadia policy’. In addition, the
function of the device was logistical – and
the logistics partner of the Games was
UPS – so why was it not a mini UPS truck?
A level playing fi eld?
Unused tickets and empty seats again
were the cause of bad publicity and anger
among the general public. Frustrated
Britons spent many hours trying to buy
tickets when other visitors from Europe
were able to turn up and buy seats from
their NOC’s allowance. Is that the
Olympic ideal of ‘fair play’? The Games
are meant to be for the people.
With so much money in the bank,
perhaps it is time for the NOCs to receive
more direct fi nancial support from the
centre (IOC and OCOG) to avoid the
need to become virtual ticket touts, which
cheapens the whole ethos of the Games.
I imagine the IOC will have lots to
think about in the coming months about
the way it presents its brand but, despite
the doubts and concerns, there is no
denying the London 2012 Olympics
Games have been a wonderful success and
Locog has done a superb job.
Patrick Nally, co-founder of West Nally, has pioneered innovation in the sports marketing industry
throughout his career. His next column will appear in the November edition of SportsPro.

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