Big bets on Beijing

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During and after the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, sales at Eastman-Kodak Co. retail stores in Australia rose 25.6%, prompting spokesman Christopher Adams to say, "We have found that our sales volume increased considerably in places that have hosted Olympics."

Imagine how Kodak and a host of other Olympic sponsors are feeling with the 2008 Games being contested in the world's most populous market?

"Downright giddy, I would say," said sports marketing expert David Carter, president of the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group.

While marketers are counting down the days to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, which begin Aug. 13, they have started a simultaneous countdown to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Nearly all of the 11 TOP (The Olympic Partnership) sponsors have signed on through the 2008 Games. Visa International and McDonald's Corp. have already re-upped through 2012. Coca-Cola Co. and Panasonic are sponsors as well.

Only Xerox Corp. is bowing out after the Athens Games, citing increasing costs of Olympic sponsorship. Each TOP sponsor pays an average of $75 million for the four-year Olympic cycle-a price many are willing to pay, especially for what some have called the last great untapped market.

"The potential there is incredible. If you can go in there and strengthen your brand in that market, you do it," said one senior VP-marketing for one of the 11 TOP sponsors.

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