AD AGE POWER 50;WHILE THE GAMES GO ON, THE MASTERS OF SPORTS KNOW HOW TO PULL THE STRINGS, MAKING IT HARD FOR THEM TO EVER LOSE

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The four most powerful people in the sports marketing business go to work wearing suits, not jerseys.

The stature of these individuals-, director of marketing at International Olympic Committee; Nike's Steve Miller and Reebok International's Peter Moore; and Falk Associates Management Enterprises' Chairman-CEO David Falk -will only grow in coming years. In the future, sports will get even more commercialized as marketers are called upon to play greater roles.

That's definitely true at the International Olympic Committee, where Mr. Payne, 37, oversees marketing and sponsorship, which funds 40% of the Olympics budget.

Although the Olympics Games are played mainly by amateur athletes, the money behind the event has become as much of a story as the medals awarded.

Some 30-plus companies paid up to $40 million individually for marketing rights to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta-a hefty increase from the $25 million-$30 million paid for the 1992 Games. The revenue-upwards of $600 million for 1996-is crucial to staging the Games.

Mr. Payne's power lies in the fact that he is the man who hears sponsors' concerns about making their investments pay off, which sports marketing executives at these companies are under increasing pressure to do. Moreover, he's helping marketers protect that investment with a new plan to fight ambush marketing-threatening to expose what TOC is calling "parasite" marketers with legal action and, if necessary, advertising publicly labeling them as such.

In sports marketing, no two companies are more linked with the commercialization of sports than Nike and Reebok. Each has a sports-marketing budget topping $80 million, and controlling the purse strings are Messrs. Miller and Moore.

They use that money to buy glamor and credibility-athlete endorsements-for their brands and products.

"I think those who decry these [tie-in] efforts do a positive service. It provides perspective, rules and regulation for conduct," says Mr. Miller, 52, Nike's director of sports marketing.

"But what people don't often recognize is that our involvement can help stage an Olympics, a Special Olympics, or even resurface a basketball court."

Over the past three years, Nike and Reebok have exchanged sports marketing body blows that have rocked the industry.

Reebok won Shaquille O'Neal, Emmitt Smith and Frank Thomas as endorsers while Nike scored with Anfernee Hardaway, Drew Bledsoe and Ken Griffey Jr. Nike is a marketing partner to the NBA and the New York City Marathon; Reebok has similar ties with the NBA and NFL. Nike boasts that more than half of all pro baseball players wear its shoes; Reebok boasts that some 3,000 athletes will bare its brand at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The competition between the two footwear companies is fierce and the intensity sometimes gets ugly, like Nike's controversial marketing deal with Dallas Cowboys/Texas Stadium owner Jerry Jones. Nike attached itself to the National Football League's controversial marketing maverick to undermine Reebok, an official NFL apparel licensee, and irk the NFL, from whom Nike wants a similar license.

(The Nike-Cowboys deal helped precipitate a $300 million lawsuit against Mr. Jones from NFL Properties, the league's licensing arm. The suit charges Mr. Jones violated the league's rules on sharing licensing rights fees.)

Shortly after announcing the Nike deal, the Cowboys signed free-agent cornerback and Nike endorser Deion Sanders. But Mr. Miller denies the Nike connection had any influence on Mr. Sanders choosing the Cowboys over other teams.

Reebok and Mr. Moore prefer a less roguish role and endeavor to play the game "by the rules and within the boundaries," as one Reebok executive says.

Senior VP Mr. Moore, 40, recently inherited the sports marketing mantle from Roberto Muller, who left the company earlier this year. Reebok has been successful in becoming an endorsement player; now its challenge is to move product.

Moving product has been no problem, though, for marketers associated with basketball superstar Michael Jordan. That's partly thanks to the group built by Mr. Falk, 45, Mr. Jordan's agent.

However, Mr. Falk is more than an agent. He has built an agency that specializes in not only representation but in the marketing of athletes. Few do it better.

There's Mr. Jordan, a marketing phenomenon who brings in $30 million-plus in endorsements each year. But there's also Charlotte Hornets guard Muggsy Bogues, who pitches for AT&T Corp. and Sprite.

Moreover, Mr. Falk handles the Hornets' Alonzo Mourning and the New York Knicks' Patrick Ewing.

But the biggest star in his orbit is undoubtedly Mr. Jordan, who endorses Gatorade, Nike, McDonald's Corp., Rayovac and Sara Lee Corp. Each of these companies attribute record gains in revenues and market share in the late '80s and early '90s to Mr. Jordan, a formidable marketing machine.

Most of these companies are in fact planning to tie into Mr. Jordan's first film, "Space Jam," due in late '96 from Warner Bros.

Not coincidentally, the film also starring Mr. Bogues and is produced by Mr. Falk.

Although Mr. Falk and Mr. Jordan were two of the leading opponents of the recently ratified collective bargaining agreement for NBA players, Mr. Falk ironically may get more business from this pact.

"There are limits now as to how much a rookie can make," says Mr. Falk. "That can be an advantage for a company like Fame, because we can help a rookie supplement his income through marketing."

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David Falk

Falk Associates Management Enterprises

Career: Mr. Falk entered the sports marketing world in 1975 with Pro-Serv, an agency in Washington, and directed the company's activities in team sports. By 1983 he had become senior VP at ProServ and in 1990 was named vice-chairman. He left the company in 1992 to start Fame.

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Steve Miller

Nike

Ad budget: $80 million (sports marketing only)

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy

Career: Before joining Nike in 1991 as director of sports marketing, Mr. Miller worked at Kansas State University for 11 years, the last five of which he served as director of athletics. Concurrently, he served as president of the Pennsylvania Special Olympics. Before his days at KSU, Mr. Miller worked as an educator and administrator at several schools and universities.

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Peter Moore

Reebok International

Ad budget: $80 million plus (sports marketing only).

Agency: Leo Burnett USA

Career: Mr. Moore joined Reebok in 1992 as director of soccer to create and head-up its soccer division. Previously, he spent 11 years at Patrick USA, a California soccer-shoe company where he started as a sales representative

and left as president. Prior to Patrick, he was a professional soccer player in the U.K.

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Michael Payne

International Olympic Committee

Career: Before joining IOC in 1989 as director of marketing, Mr. Payne worked for a variety of sports-marketing agencies in England and Korea. Immediately preceding the IOC, he was with ISL Marketing in Switzerland, where he helped create IOC's worldwide sponsorship strategy.

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