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Sara Lee Corp., a $65 million U.S. sponsor and licensee of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, is considering a plan to keep its in-house Olympics marketing unit in place after the Games as an entertainment/sports marketing resource for its various divisions.

Executives within the Sara Lee Olympic Partnership are evaluating the effectiveness of the unit, which identifies marketing opportunities for-and helps coordinate programs among-the company's apparel and packaged meat brands covered by the sponsorship.


Sara Lee is negotiating to remain attached to the Olympics for the next eight years, and the outcome of those talks will factor heavily into the form the unit will take if it's extended.

That such a plan is being considered reflects the impact the Olympics and the Sara Lee Olympic Partnership have had on the $17.7 billion conglomerate.

"We don't know structurally what it would look like yet, but the attitude here is to take what we've learned from the Olympics and invest it into current and future sports and entertainment marketing programs," said Jeff Bliss, president-CEO of the unit.

"If we are going to be affiliated with and co-branding with the Olympics and the most-desired sports brands in the world," said Mr. Bliss, "we want to build long-term relationships in which we share in the risk and as well as the reward."

By close of '96, Sara Lee expects the Olympics to have generated $500 million in revenue over four years, with some programs profitable and others breaking even. Sara Lee will spend upwards of $90 million in marketing support on the Games this year but, like most rookie Olympics rights-holders, Mr. Bliss said, "we're still not maximizing our sponsorship."

On the apparel side of its business, the sponsorship has facilitated innovations in manufacturing and product design, bolstered relationships with key retail accounts and put brands into new distribution channels, from airports to Sears. It also has led to alliances with Coca-Cola Co., General Motors Corp., McDonald's Corp. and Warner Bros.

Sara Lee's lead Olympic apparel brand, Champion, will launch an Olympics-themed integrated marketing effort in April, riding the coattails of the NCAA basketball championships. The "Guts to Glory" program will include an estimated $10 million TV and print campaign from Merkley Newman Harty, New York, and a grass-roots sports program that will take the form of an Olympics-themed obstacle course.


For its meat business, Sara Lee is planning an Olympics-themed, multibrand umbrella marketing push for spring and summer via Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York. This spring will also see the first cross-promotions between apparel and meat.

Sara Lee is looking at ways to expand use of its Ball Park Franks/Hanes spokesman Michael Jordan as an icon to unify its diverse Olympics program.

In late May, Hanes will relaunch its campaign with Mr. Jordan from last year with a new spot from Long Haymes Carr, Winston Salem, N.C. Also on the drawing board is a Ball Park commercial from Ammirati, pairing Mr. Jordan with Olympic mascot Izzy.

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