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Seventeen days of peace worldwide.

That's what the International Olympic Committee wants for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta: 17 days of peace among all countries of the world, and 17 days of peace between Olympic sponsors and their ambush-minded competitors.

One year out from the lighting of the Olympic torch in Atlanta, the IOC is about to begin its major campaign to prevent ambush-or parasite-marketing from plaguing its sponsors, while at the same time beginning talks with the United Nations about calling for a global Olympic truce.

The custom dates back to the ancient Greek games. In 1994, the IOC and the United Nations called for a truce for the 1994 Lillehammer Games with an intense focus on the former Yugoslavia, but smaller wars went on elsewhere around the globe. If all countries honor the truce in 1996, it would be the first time that's happened in modern history.

If an Olympic truce is established, said Michael Payne, the IOC's director of marketing, then the IOC will look at creating a marketing program for sponsors, a program that could allow the likes of Coca-Cola Co., Eastman Kodak and Visa USA to donate money to relief programs around the world.

The goal is to remind people, and reinforce the IOC position, that the Olympics is a movement extolling peace and excellence. That may sound like hokum in these cynical times, but the IOC believes that selling consumers on the movement is the key to getting support in funding the Games, combating ambush marketing and even reducing the need for an unwieldy number of sponsors. Currently, there are 33 worldwide and U.S. sponsors paying $40 million each.

"The task we are faced with through our marketing communications and educational efforts,"

said Mr. Payne, "is how do we take the Olympics beyond being just a 17-day event."

The comprehensive anti-ambush campaign is being applauded by sponsors, who add such programs are crucial to their continued support.

"From our perspective, we are investing in a marketing asset," said Stu Cross, Coca-Cola VP-director of worldwide sports, a worldwide and U.S. sponsor for the '96 Games. "If a rival can associate with a property without paying the fee, it renders our investment useless. If that happens, we either pay less next time or we don't pay at all."

The anti-ambush campaign will begin within the month with an in-house-created print campaign, aimed at marketing executives, that compares ambush marketers with biological parasites. The ads will run in business and marketing trade publications.

Moreover, Mr. Payne said he has received assurances from Olympic sponsors who will not engage in comparative advertising that might antagonize a competitor to ambush. Case in point: Visa spots that use the line ".*.*. but they won't take American Express." (Calls to Visa execs weren't returned.)

And if a competitor does ambush, it will be the IOC, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and the U.S. Olympic Committee, not the sponsor, that will respond. For the first time, an organizing committee has created a sponsor protection unit with a staff of 30 legal and marketing executives.

If an ambush is launched, the staff will assess within 48 hours the damage in dollars and consumer impressions the campaign has done, then confront the marketer with a request to cease and desist. If that fails, an ad campaign will be launched comparing the company with those aforementioned parasites. If that fails, then come the lawsuits.

"I think it's a very good first effort, but it will be very interesting to see if it will really cause a decrease in ambush marketing," said Elizabeth Primrose-Smith, director of worldwide Olympic and sports operations for IBM Corp., both a worldwide and U.S. sponsor.

Crucial to squelching ambush marketing will be getting consumers to care as much about the issue as organizers and sponsors. To that end, the IOC is creating programs that educate people, especially youngsters, about the movement. For example, the IOC is currently testing Olympic-themed academic curriculums in schools in Canada (in a program sponsored by Visa) and England (sponsored by McDonald's Corp.).

More immediately, the IOC has begun a program to educate advertising and marketing executives at Olympic sponsors and their agencies. Mr. Payne and executives at Olympic sponsors like Bausch & Lomb and Coca-Cola agree that too often, sponsors take the "Just tag it tack," as one executive put it, of slapping the Olympic rings on pre-existing ads. The IOC has already conducted two such meetings, in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in New York.

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