IBM readies last Olympic splash

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IBM Corp., nearing its final Olympic Games sponsorship, will launch in early September parallel Olympic-theme ad and marketing pushes in the U.S. and Sydney, site of the 2000 Summer Games.

A multimedia campaign by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, composed of TV, print, online, out-of-home and direct mail will mark Big Blue's farewell to the Games as information technology sponsor.

IBM executives declined to confirm spending for the 17-day global extravaganza which starts on Sept. 15, but analysts estimated the company spent between $80 million and $100 million to run operations during the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, including Web sites and results systems. That number more than likely will double to almost $200 million in Sydney. IBM is projected to spend $660 million globally on marketing in 2000 (AA, Feb. 28).

The company's Olympic media blitz will start just prior to the Games, according to Eli Primrose-Smith, VP-worldwide Olympic and sports sponsorships.

Massive billboards, bus and monorail wraps are planned for Sydney, bearing images from IBM's "Look of the Games" series, created internally to symbolize the spirit of the Olympics. Images include a gymnast, a swimmer and basketball and volleyball players. The athletes also will appear on posters, pins, windbreakers and hats, and on collateral used by IBM's sales team to communicate with customers.

Creative, from Ogilvy, remains in the concept phase, and IBM said it expects that it will evolve right up until the eleventh hour.

DEADLINE PERFORMER

Ogilvy "does some of its very best work when pushed right up to the end," Ms. Primrose-Smith said. She said a "significant portion" of the TV spots that will run on NBC in the U.S. will be Olympic themed, but IBM also expects to showcase broad offerings under its NetGeneration business platform.

"NetGeneration is an important target audience,"she said.

An Olympic ad retrospective, illustrating IBM's Olympic ads over the years, is under consideration.

1 BILLION PAGE VIEWS

On the technology side, IBM will run games management, results and other back-end systems in Sydney, along with creating, hosting and managing Web sites. It hosts and manages the official Web site of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games (olympics.com), as well as the NBC Olympics site (nbcolympics.com).

IBM said it projects 1 billion page views on Olympics.com over the course of the 17-day event.

IBM decided not to re-up its Olympic commitment in 1998 at the height of the furor over corruption within the International Olympic Committee. The company maintained that it decided to end its Olympic association because executives did not believe that the financial commitment required would deliver the best marketing value.

"We were looking at our future, in terms of where we wanted to put our marketing money, and the business model going forward was a different model than our 1993 contract," Ms. Primrose-Smith said.

DECADES OF INVOLVEMENT

IBM first became involved with the Games in 1960 when it ran data processing operations for the systems that produced event results.

While the company hasn't sponsored all the Olympic Games in the intervening years, it has dramatically increased its role as the information technology sector has grown more sophisticated.

"It's been an unmatched marketing platform in which IBM can showcase its technology solutions on a global scale," Ms. Primrose-Smith said.

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