IOC hands off $150 mil global torch to TBWA

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Coming off the worst six months in its history, the International Olympic Committee has selected TBWA Worldwide, New York and Playa del Rey, Calif., as its first agency of record for a massive $150 million global ad effort.

The IOC made the selection after narrowing its agency search from 20 to two shops, TBWA and Y&R Advertising, New York.

"We went with TBWA/Chiat/Day because they have a reputation to take a brand and make it fresh, to contemporize it," said Terrence Burns, senior VP-marketing resources for Meridian Management, the IOC's U.S. marketing representative. "They had an understanding about this 3,000-year-old brand--that the Olympic movement isn't a trend or a flash in the pan."


TBWA's initial efforts for the IOC will start in January or February, some nine months before the start of the Sydney 2000 Summer Games, which will open in September.

IOC officials denied the coming campaign is in response to the recent troubles concerning admitted payments and gifts to IOC officials from members of the Salt Lake City Olympic organizing committee. Salt Lake City will host the 2002 Summer Games.

"You are not going to advertise your way out of these difficulties," said Michael Payne, director of marketing for the IOC. "The campaign is purely to develop a long-term strategy."


Additionally, the IOC said, its search for an agency started long before those troubles. Mr. Payne said the IOC started making TV and print ad deals in 1996 with this marketing strategy in mind.

For TV, that meant the IOC's worldwide broadcasting partners would, in addition to paying IOC a cash license fee, provide a set amount of weekly commercial time for the Olympic-branding messages.

In aggregate, these deals are worth about $150 million annually. The IOC's U.S. broadcast partner for the next five Olympics is NBC.

TBWA has been known in recent years for taking on troubled brands, including Apple Computer and Taco Bell. But IOC officials said the selection was made be-cause of the agency's track record.

"That had nothing to do with it," Mr. Payne said. "We don't have a turnaround issue."

For TBWA, the IOC victory marks the first large-scale global win for the agency since owner Omnicom Group merged it with London-based GGT Group.

"It's a validation of the extraordinary power of our network," said Michael Greenlees, president-CEO of TBWA Worldwide. "This is probably the first time since the merger of the GGT network that we all focused on a project of this size and importance."

A major part of TBWA's approach is in targeting the Olympic brand toward young adults.

"There's a large Internet/Worldwide Web component of the dialogue," said Lee Clow, chairman-chief creative officer of TBWA Worldwide, adding that a substantial component of the campaign will be to "invite the next generation" into the Olympics movement.


"This is a preemptive strike to make sure we are connecting with young adults," Mr. Payne said.

Although Messrs. Clow and Greenlees declined to discuss specifics about the campaign, one key element would be to promote human achievement.

"It's bigger than sports and winning medals," Mr. Clow said. "It's the celebration of human effort."

Contributing: Laura Petrecca

Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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