U.S. Olympic unit surveys shops for branding effort

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The marketing arm of the U.S. Olympic Committee is concluding a scouting mission of ad agencies as well as research and design shops for a major branding initiative in support of the Olympic movement in the U.S.

Olympic Properties of the U.S. is seeking an image that casts the Olympics brand as antithetical to the negative image of sports recently reflected by professional athletics, whose notoriety has sometimes colored all sports.

The organization hopes to finalize agency assignments by the opening of the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, next month.


OPUS won't identify the agencies being considered beyond saying that they're smaller, specialized shops.

A campaign break date has not been set nor has a budget been disclosed.

Beyond its own campaign, OPUS will enlist the support of new marketing partners to communicate its message in their Olympics efforts. These include General Motors Corp., NationsBank, Texaco and U S West.

"There's a growing segment of the population that views sports with total cynicism. . . . We [in sports] must hold each other accountable for the propagation of values in sports," said John Krimsky Jr., USOC deputy secretary general, last week at the International Sports Summit in New York.

While noting that the business of sports is enjoying a "golden age," Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, warned attendees "to pay attention, because golden ages have a beginning--and an end."

That attitude was echoed by others at the summit.

Sports Summit panel discussions also addressed the perils of using athletes as pitchmen; marketers of college athletics positioned their properties as values-oriented alternatives for sponsors.

Sports marketing executives selling sponsorship packages for the National Collegiate Athletic Association said the current sports climate has made their pitches more enticing to corporate America.


In the past six months, Host Communications Sports, the NCAA's marketing agent, has generated $70 million in sponsorship revenue via deals with Compaq Computer Corp., Nabisco and TriCon Global Restaurants, parent of Pizza Hut and KFC Corp.

The current negative climate in sports "has helped us. We've called on a lot of companies . . . and everyone has issues. The NCAA . . . is about amateur athletics, purity of sports and education," said T.J. Nelligan, Host's president-national sales.

Mr. Nelligan believes, however, that the National Football League's new TV deals prove that pro sports properties remain powerful marketing vehicles. But many believe pro sports sponsors will change their marketing approaches.


International Management Group is now representing Peyton Manning, a highly regarded NFL quarterback prospect just graduated from the University of Tennessee. IMG plans to sell Mr. Manning to corporate America as a wholesome role model who stayed in school instead of leaving early.

"Discipline is a key theme in Peyton's life story," said Gary Jacobus, IMG's senior VP-corporate representation, who noted that Sprint Corp. will use Mr. Manning for on-site sponsor events at Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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