FLAUNTING THE RINGS CHEAPLY;NON-SPONSORS OF OLYMPIC GAMES INSTEAD BACK TEAMS, RELATED EVENTS

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Leave it to Nike to offer a primer on how to exploit the Summer Olympics without paying a $40 million sponsorship fee.

First, fashion a $35 million ad campaign via Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., with a bunch of spots about Olympic athletes that never once mentions the word "Olympics." Next, map a $15 million media plan during and around the Games, including local buys on NBC stations. Hook up with Fuji Photo Film USA, rival to Olympic sponsor Eastman Kodak Co., for an Olympic-like promotion. Create a Web site called "@tlanta." Build a theme park on private property in downtown Atlanta called Nike Park. Make sure the outsize corporate logo on the roof can be seen by everyone in town.

For every one of the 40-plus marketers that shelled out up to $40 million for the right to be a 1996 Summer Olympics sponsor, there's at least one-probably a competitor-that has found a cheaper way to glom off Olympic hoopla. Few are actively trying to pass themselves off as sponsors, but they don't mind if consumers get that impression.

UNWANTED GUESTS

"It's like we're having a wedding and one or two distant relatives have shown up and are at the end of the receiving line trying to sell time-shares," said Darby Coker, director of communications for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

Nike and others insist they have legitimate ties to the Games.

NIKE `NEEDS TO BE THERE'

"We're in the business of sports and supporting athletes. We need to be there," a Nike spokeswoman said.

Others get a foot in the door by sponsoring individual Olympic teams, though there are restrictions on how those sponsorships can be leveraged.

Frito-Lay, a USA Basketball sponsor, has already launched a number of "Dream Team" spots from BBDO Worldwide, New York, with more expected to break during the Games. Fuji is currently touting its support of the USA Track & Field Team in ads from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge.

Do consumers confuse team sponsors with Olympic sponsors? "It happens from time to time because there is so much activity," a Fuji spokesman admitted.

ACOG pursues non-sponsors that ride its Olympic coattails. For example, the Atlanta Metro Ford Dealer Association ran an Escort TV spot from J. Walter Thompson USA in May in the Atlanta market that showed four cyclists who were Olympic hopefuls in footage shot in 1993. But by the time ACOG-seeking to protect sponsor General Motors Corp.-called asking the Ford group to stop running the ad, the campaign had ended.

NO ATHLETES IN ADS

If Ford and others got away with such things before, they won't during the Games: Olympic officials have only granted sponsors and athletic footwear marketers waivers to a rule that forbids athletes from appearing in ads during the Games.

Tie-in attempts can also come by buying enough time on NBC's Olympics broadcast to receive from the network rights to use a composite logo of NBC and Olympic marks.

Longtime Olympics broadcast sponsor Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. paid $10 million to return, and the company and agency JWT, Chicago, are using the composite logo in print ads, posters and merchandising.

Atlanta itself offers an avenue, albeit a narrow one, for non-sponsors to get into the Olympics. The city has licensed local agency B.G. Swing to market its municipalities and lease vending kiosks.

The agency has sold 300 kiosks, priced between $10,000 and $20,000 apiece depending on location. Most of its business comes from Olympic sponsors, but it has also sold to non-sponsors like Black & Decker Corp.

The state of Georgia offers its own route into its Olympic host city. Warsteiner Importers Agency, a tiny U.S. marketer pushing the top beer in Germany, parted with less than $300,000 to set up Warsteiner Village '96, a beer garden-entertainment center that opened July 1 in state-operated Georgia Plaza Park.

`DON'T HAVE THE MONEY'

Anheuser-Busch, an Olympic sponsor, "wasn't interested in this opportunity, which opened it up for us," said Warsteiner President Diane Fall. "We always have to look for opportunities like this. We obviously don't have the money Anheuser-Busch, Coors Brewing Co. or Coca-Cola has."

Non-sponsors can also connect themselves to events staged by other non-sponsors. Samsung Group is the title sponsor and Dribeck Importers' Beck's beer is a presenting sponsor of Samsung '96 Expo. The Coors Historic Roswell Festival also boasts Boston Market, Roswell Jeep, Domino's Pizza and Kroger Co. among its sponsors. And the House of Blues has signed Starbucks Coffee Co. and Sun Microsystems to help create a venue at a location near Nike Park.

SPONSORS DROWNED OUT?

Some question whether the combined marketing roar of the non-sponsors will drown out the officially sanctioned noise made by full-fledged Games sponsors, which often must shell out much more than a big sponsor fee to have an impact.

"Forty million dollars doesn't do anything on its own; it's only a license to spend more money," said Munson Steed, president, B.G. Swing Sports & Events. "If the clutter is obscuring your message, it's more likely you're not doing enough to break through it."

Contributing: Leslie Bayor and Jean Halliday.

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