RACE FOR OLYMPIC GOLD STARTS IN WORLD'S CITIES

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On three continents, sparking local interest in 2004

Three of 11 cities shortlisted to host the 2004 Olympics are planning campaigns to convince residents and the International Olympic Committee that the Summer Games should be held there.

Favorites Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town are designing marketing strategies and logos incorporating the Olympic flame, the five-ring symbol and slogans about 2004. But they must wait until next February, when the IOC cuts the field to five before a September 1997 decision.

Cape Town, Rio and Rome are working with ad agencies on campaigns to convince local citizens of the benefits the Games would bring to the city, and to boost their chances with the IOC.

"Cape Town has a good chance because of the new South Africa," said Graham Bridgwater, vice chairman of sponsorship consultancy CSS International, London. "Rome will benefit from the strong element of Latin and Latin-related voters on the IOC."

Post-apartheid South Africa is represented by Cape Town 2004 Olympic Bid, a non-profit company backed by sponsors such as Mercedes-Benz and oil company Caltex, using a logo of an Olympic flame shaped like Africa. Chikane Hunt Lascaris, Johannesburg, a joint venture between agency Hunt Lascaris TBWA and Abe Chikane, a black South African lobbyist, handles.

Dave Bester, Chikane Hunt's managing director, said 25% of South Africans favor the bid-and 19% hate the idea. "It is really a classical advertising problem," he said of the campaign, appearing this month.

Cape Town 2004 will operate its own temporary regional TV station in March and April to highlight details about the bid.

Rio de Janeiro also is a hot contender. To promote itself, a committee called Rio 2004 has broken various marketing initiatives, including lighting a 6-foot flame on Corcovado mountain, to be kept ablaze until the IOC chooses a winner. Rio 2004 has sent a video of the lighting ceremony to the IOC. Local agency V&S Comunicacoes handles the $2 million introduction, themed, "Rio, naturally Olympic."

From Rome, a committee named agency Barbella, Gagliardi, Saffirio to target Italy's international airports and train stations, but advertising has not begun. Rome will soon unveil its logo, a stylized version of the Colosseum. Total marketing spending has not been finalized.

Also bidding: Athens; Buenos Aires; Istanbul; Lille, France; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Seville, Spain; St. Petersburg; and Stockholm.

The IOC also settled another bidding war, granting the European Broadcasting Union the TV rights for Europe for the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games.

EBU, Geneva, traditionally gets Olympic rights, but News Corp., bidding $2 billion-plus for these rights, raised the stakes.

Contributing to this story: Michelle McCarter, Rome; Drusilla Menaker, Johannesburg; Claudia Penteado, Rio de Janeiro.

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