GROWING OLYMPIC SCANDAL ENVELOPS ADVERTISERS

Committee Seeks to Calm Pullout Threats

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The U.S. Olympic Committee is reassuring members and marketing partners after discontent surfaced this week from a major sponsor and the concern of at least one USOC official.

Sponsors such as Anheauser-Busch, McDonald's Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. seem to be staying out of the fracas initiated when John Hancock Financial Services CEO-Chairman David D'Alessandro expressed annoyance at the USOC's executive churn and lack of financial accountability.

Comments have 'legitimacy'
But one USOC member told AdAge.com: "David's comments have legitimacy. Frankly, I'm concerned about the image we're portraying with all these problems and hoping we don't lose the key sponsors who have been generous in helping our athletes."

The USOC has had four CEOs and three presidents since 2000. Five USOC officials have resigned since Jan. 20, when the executive committee decided not to take any action against current CEO Lloyd Ward, who tried to get an Olympic-related contract steered toward his brother's company.

A USOC spokesman said that while the USOC is concerned about harmony with its sponsors, they had "weathered similar storms."

Support for athletes
Sponsors -- including Visa USA and AllState -- said they are monitoring the situation, but their support is for the athletes, not the governing board sitting in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"The USOC -- they're not the athletes," said Becky Saeger, Visa USA's executive vice president of brand marketing.

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