Bangkok Post

Games delay a big relief for sponsors



>>LONDON: The decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 will be welcomed by the sponsors who pay hundreds of millions to be associated with the event, according to experts.

Faced with growing internatio­nal pressure, the Internatio­nal Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday delayed the July 24-Aug 9 Games, a move never before seen in peacetime in the event’s 124-year history.

British advertisin­g veteran Martin Sorrell, who founded advertisin­g giant WPP and sits on the IOC’s Communicat­ions Commission, told AFP that delaying the Games was logical given the coronaviru­s pandemic and a resulting recession he compares only to that created by war.

“The [local and internatio­nal] sponsors would prefer next year in any case given the chaos that is going on at the moment,” he said in a phone interview.

“So this works out for both sets of sponsors.”

Sorrell, who left WPP in 2018, concedes there are hurdles to be overcome such as the availabili­ty of the venues and the timetable — the IOC has left the door open to a spring Olympics — but believes the “extremely competent” Japanese organisers would deal with those changes.

But he foresaw the Games taking place in more propitious financial times.

“People ask me if this recession is different to others. I say there has been nothing like it before — the only comparison is wartime,” he said.

“I have experience­d several in my life, such as the oil slump of the 80s, the dotcom in 2001 and 2008.

“Nothing has been as quick as this. There will be a fallout for some but there will be a recovery.

“Q2 [the second quarter] will be very difficult this year, Q3 less so and Q4 better, so there will be some signs of recovery by the time the Games come round.”

Michael Payne, the IOC’s former head of marketing, dismisses the belief in some quarters that IOC president Thomas Bach and the organisers’ ultimate decision was beholden to the wishes of their respective commercial partners.

“Nothing could be further from the truth that the IOC decision-making process is driven by commercial partners,” the 62-year-old Irishman told AFP.

“They would have been informed but not consulted. However, the decision would have been 100% driven by sporting concerns.”

Payne, who in nearly two decades at the IOC was widely credited with transformi­ng its brand and finances by attracting vast sponsorshi­p, said the IOC was less commercial than other sporting bodies.

“The football leagues and Formula One are much more commercial entities even if the sums of money are much smaller,” he said.

“[American broadcaste­r] NBC do not have a seat at the table when host cities are decided.”

Becoming a so-called TOP (The

Olympic Partner Programme establishe­d by the IOC in 1985) does not come cheap.

The dozen current members — including Coca-Cola, General Electric and Omega — will have invested well over US$100 million each to become one of the main providers for the Tokyo Games.

Key concepts

Terrence Burns was an IOC marketing executive and is now executive vice-president of Global Sport for marketing and brand company Engine Shop, advising one of the TOP sponsors, insurance firm Allianz, on the strategic aspects of their IOC partnershi­p.

Burns, who since leaving the IOC has played a key role in five successful Olympic bid city campaigns, told AFP the postponeme­nt has caused little fuss because they will retain the 2020 Tokyo Games name despite being shifted into next year.

“This is unpreceden­ted for all sponsors whose rights either end, begin, or extend at the end of this quadrennia­l [2020] and into the next,” he said.

“The key concepts to make this unique situation work are flexibilit­y and fairness.

“Fortunatel­y, Olympic sponsorshi­p agreements are precise and succinct as to the use of which Olympic intellectu­al property can be used where, how, and when... and by whom.”

Burns said the IOC provided clarity and thereby reassuranc­e to those whose contracts were due to come to an end in 2020.

“The IOC has already stated that sponsors of the Tokyo Games whose rights were set to expire this year will be extended through the Games next year,” he said.

“Accommodat­ions will need to be made in certain categories, but I personally do not see any issues that will prove difficult, let alone insurmount­able.”

Burns said he believed the Games next year would be unique in the emotional punch they could deliver as the world recovers from the pandemic.

“The Olympics, at least to me, are as much about optimism and hope as they are about sport,” he said.

“If the global crisis is contained and or is over by next year, I think the Games will provide for a unique and amazing celebratio­n of humanity and triumph.”

 ??  ?? TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK: People walk past what was a 2020 Olympics countdown clock which now shows current date and time in Tokyo.
TICK-TOCK, TICK-TOCK: People walk past what was a 2020 Olympics countdown clock which now shows current date and time in Tokyo.

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