"The International Olympic Committee is talking with us," a Hewlett-Packard spokeswoman said. "At the moment, we're assessing the business, financial and customer sense in doing this . . . If it makes sense for us, we will, but it's very early days."
IOC Director of Marketing Michael Payne wouldn't comment on which companies have been contacted, although he did confirm the group plans to replace IBM with a consortium.
IBM was the sole technology sponsor for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano -- and will be again for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, after which its association with the IOC will end. Marketing rights to the '98 and 2000 events combined cost IBM more than $40 million.
DISAGREEMENT OVER CHARGES
In negotiations to extend their relationship beyond 2000, IBM and IOC clashed over how much IBM would charge organizing committees for its hardware and services. Mr. Payne said some comparison shopping revealed multiple suppliers would be cheaper.
The sponsorships involved do not include ad packages, but do allow the sponsors to tout themselves as such for promotional purposes.
The "consortium" strategy was standard procedure prior to 1996. But for IBM to participate in that setup would have undermined its positioning as a one-stop technology solutions provider.
"In this case, the proposal that they made to us on how they made it split just didn't work for us," said an IBM spokesman.
WHAT ABOUT SWATCH?
The IOC's consortium approach would include companies in such categories as hardware, systems integration and cable switching. Also a possibility, according to the IOC: timing, which could affect longtime Olympics watch sponsor Swatch.
In systems integration, Andersen Consulting and Electronic Data Systems left the door open, but declined to comment specifically on whether they would pursue the Olympics. "EDS currently provides information technology services for a variety of major global sports events and organizations, and we look forward to continuing the expansion of those opportunities," said a spokeswoman.
Andersen worked on the Winter Olympics in '92 and '94, providing networks, systems and software development. "As far as any future involvement with the Olympics is concerned, we have no plans at the moment," a spokesman said.