Going for the Gold in London

London OlympicsThe Olympics open in London on Wednesday, July 27th. You won’t see any sponsor logos on the athletes or in the stadium. Similarly, in ancient Greece there we no logos on clothing either. Of course, back then, the competitors were naked.

Even so, the Olympics today are big business. 

Eleven global companies have paid almost $1 billion for their four year commitment (2009-2012) as a top Olympic partner (“TOP”). There is only one TOP sponsor for each commercial category. Coca-Cola for soft drinks, Visa for credit cards, McDonald’s for fast food and so on. Unable to advertise inside, the sponsors must advertise outside, by way of posters and packaging and every other platform available. So every sponsor links their advertising back to the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) has made a policy against “crass commercialism” and the result is worldwide advertising by the TOPs of the upcoming Olympics. What a fantastic deal for the IOC. And, it must be working for the TOPs as well- many have been doing this for 25 years or more years and fees are up 10.5% in this quadrennium.

London OlympicsThe IOC has raised almost $5 billion in sponsorship and broadcasting rights for 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London. Broadcasters have paid $3.9 billion for television rights. NBC Universal has paid $1.2 billion for the rights to the London games. According to the Economist, to date, NBC has sold $950 million in advertising and will undoubtedly sell more ads at the last minute. Add in the cost of cameras, computers, and communication and they are expected lose $200 million. Not to worry. NBC will be paying $4.4 billion for the games from 2014 to 2020. NBC’s plan is to make big inroads on ESPN. Of course, they will be fighting time zone differences and many Olympic sports that don’t interest Americans. However, there will be 3,500 hours of coverage, many online, this year. Get your smart phones ready.

Lastly, London will invest almost $15 billion to be the host. They’ve invested heavily in a new Olympic Park, a grand Velodrome and a new $400 million aquatic center. They’ve built roads and spent billions on revamping and revitalizing parts of East London. David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, has promised a return of $20 billion. If he is right, it will be a rarity for most modern day Olympics hosts. However, Britain, alone among recent hosts, has focused on “legacy.” The Olympic Stadium will hold 80,000 during the games but will be dismantled afterward to hold 25,000. Many sites are temporary venues that can be dismantled and reused afterwards. It’s a tough time. The British economy is currently in a recession and Cameron hopes that the Olympics will boost GDP by .2% in the third quarter. London has had the wettest summer in recent history. The hoped-for tourist boom doesn’t seem to be happening. Finally, due to the congestion, London employers have been encouraged to send their employees home for two weeks and work from home. Ultimately, there may little impact on the UK’s GDP, but at least London employees can spend some time on the couch watching their telly.