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Looking to prevent the problems encountered at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the International Olympic Committee will require future host cities to submit to stringent controls on their marketing activities.

As part of that, cities will be asked to secure all outdoor advertising space in the host city for use by the organizers during the month surrounding the Games. The inventory, which would include bus shelters and signage at airports, will be allocated to the IOC's Olympics imaging and sponsor-recognition ads, and sold to Olympics sponsors.


The new rules will take effect with the 2004 Summer Olympics, whose host city will be selected Sept. 4. In the running: Athens, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Rome and Stockholm.

Their willingness to agree to the controls and their ability to secure that outdoor ad space will be factors in the IOC's decision.

The plan is drawing criticism in the U.S.

"This sort of blanket control of an outdoor market for a set period of time would inhibit ad competition and creativity," said Kippy Burns, VP-communications at the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, adding that it may run afoul of the First Amendment.


The IOC publicly chastised Atlanta for selling its sidewalk space to various vendors, many of whom had no ties to the Olympics. It also had reservations about the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games' private financing approach to the event.

According to IOC Director of Marketing Michael Payne, that forced ACOG into marketing deals-especially in the licensing arena-that were "revenues for revenues' sake" and undermined the Olympics brand.

The new rules give the IOC greater control over marketing activities. Sidewalk vending programs will be forbidden.

"To be fair, Atlanta broke even, but [ACOG] had to work miracles to pull that off," Mr. Payne said. "Licensing is a small part of revenue, but you can't operate in a multimillion-dollar sponsorship business that sells Olympic excellence and think you can stick it on every little trinket. It's a brand-image issue."

He said a "more conscious structure" will monitor licensing agreements.

The IOC is implementing these rules now because it can afford to. Long-term broadcast agreements, like NBC's $3.5 billion broadcasting deal through the 2008 Games, put the IOC and its organizing committees in a better position to map out budgets and financing of the Games.

"The broadcast contracts will give the 2004 organizing committee 50% to 60% of its budget upfront, and that helps them get on with the staging of the Games and not worry so much about raising the money to pay for it," Mr. Payne said.


The outdoor ad stipulation not only goes to IOC's effort to control the perception of commercialization, but to combat ambush marketing.

According to Mr. Payne, it's unlikely that space will be sold to marketers in categories where no IOC or organizing committee sponsorships are sold, such as athletic footwear.

Of the five cities competing for the 2004 Games, Mr. Payne said, three have secured their locale's outdoor ad inventory. The cost to the IOC and the organizing committee of purchasing that inventory for resale to sponsors will range from $2 million to $10 million, depending on who wins the bid.

The rules aren't written into the IOC's contracts with Nagano, Japan; Sydney; and Salt Lake City, sites of the 1998, 2000 and 2002 Olympics respectively, although Mr. Payne said those cities are attempting to comply after-the-fact, with Salt Lake City being more successful than Sydney and Nagano.

Sellers of the space aren't as concerned as the OAAA, and see more good than bad in the rule.

"It's logistically possible to deliver on this, but what makes it hard is going to advertisers with whom you have long-term relationships and telling them they can't have these dates," said Dave Wood, general manager at Outdoor Systems, Atlanta. "But when it comes to getting an Olympics, any business in any city would want work together to get something like that."

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