The Sema Group paid more than $100 million three years ago to become one of eight TOP (The Olympic Partners) sponsors, joining McDonald's Corp. and Visa International, among others. Sema is systems integrator for the games.
no interest in publicity
But in April of last year, the British and French company was acquired by Schlumberger Ltd., the oil-services giant with offices in Paris, New York and The Hague. SchlumbergerSema was created and based in New York, and while it retains Olympic sponsorship through the 2008 Beijing Games, it has shown no interest in broadly publicizing itself.
It will not have any commercial time on General Electric Co.'s NBC coverage of the Games. It will not have any signs at the venues in Salt Lake City. The only mentions of SchlumbergerSema will be on its hospitality tent and on the buses that pick up the more than 200 clients the firm has flown in for the Games.
"We're not interested in advertising at this time," Michele Bernhardt, SchlumbergerSema director-public relations, said from Salt Lake City. "We're more interested in business-to-business and public relations right now. I can't say that won't change for the Athens Games in 2004, but right now we have no advertising."
Nor does SchlumbergerSema have an ad agency. Ironically, her predecessor at Sema Group, Marie-Claude Bessis, told Advertising Age in 1998 that Sema was interested in talking with agencies. "We really need to set up a program," Ms. Bessis said then.
Peter Hurley, president, sports-marketing consultancy Synergy Sports, said the low profile may make sense. "Sometimes companies are willing to fly under the radar and create that one voice that can resonate in the future," said Mr. Hurley. "Typically, a sponsorship is just a buy-in, and then it's what you do with it that counts. ... If their B-to-B clients can meet their goals and objectives with a year-one sponsorship, more power to them. But when [SchlumbergerSema] actually launches a campaign, this will obviously be one of the bigger-targeted accounts."
Ms. Bernhardt said the company has given more than 70 interviews to major papers and trade publications this year."Right now, a good editorial gives me more credibility with our businesses than does any advertisement I could buy," she said.