The 1984 Olympic Games: An Image Perspective|
The Olympic Games are not only a celebration that allow the world to share in a spectacular athletic event, but the Games are also a showcase for imaging and selling products of Olympic sponsors (Delpy). According to the Women's Sports Foundation, the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles marked the beginning of the most successful era of corporate sponsorship ("100 Years of Marketing"). The 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney proved to be the most profitable Games yet, due to the expansion of advertising on the Internet. Since its take-off in 1984, Olympic advertising has gradually grown into a worldwide competition for sponsors, which continued to soar through the 2000 Olympic Games. Advertising between the 1984 Olympic Games tells the story of how a world competition becomes one of the most competitive markets for sponsorship in the history of advertising.
The 1984 Olympic Games will long be remembered as "one of the greatest sports spectacles in history" (Grimm & Simpson). It was also the year in which a new age of marketing joined the age-old tradition that the Games claim to represent, when the corporations, brokers and advertising executives started taking serious stock of the spirit of peaceful competition and one-worldliness (Grimm & Simpson). In 1984, 34 companies signed on as official sponsors, 64 companies purchased "supplier" rights, and 65 companies were licensees ("100 Years of Marketing").
Advertising helped to bring the spirit of the Olympics to the consumer. Corporations spent millions to get their products before the eyes of the world (Nucifora). Although the larger, well-established sports such as track and field, swimming and gymnastics commanded big dollars, some of the less popular sports, such as fencing and archery, accepted smaller sponsorship funds.
Congress passed the Amateur Sports Act in 1978, "authorizing the International Olympic Committee to grant sponsors the exclusive rights to use the Olympic rings and other trademarks" (Washington Bureau). Olympic sponsorship began in 1984 by selling sponsors the right to "piggy-back on what is arguably the most positive image association on the planet, the Olympic trademark of five interlocking rings" (MasterFILE Premier). Corporations, spent $4 million to get their products before the eyes of the world (Nucifora). According to Sports Business & Industry, the McDonald's Corporation, under the guidance of Davis, Johnson, Mogul and Colombatto Advertising Agency (DJMC), spent $32 million on advertising during the Games, rankin them as the top advertiser (Associated Press). Invoking the Olympic symbol was one way to reinforce a company's positive attributes, because the sponsor mirrored the positive image people have of the Games (Master FILE Premier). The sponsorship fee allowed them to state that they are sponsors in all their advertising marks and on all collateral, and in most cases license the Olympic marks to use on their products or on ad specialty products (Gillam). Some companies even elected to associate themselves with a particular Olympic Game (Heroux). Many Olympic sponsors began advertising 500 days before the event, and most used celebrities and athletes for both advertising endorsement and hospitality support (Nucifora).
The positioning of advertisements in the media was an extremely important task for the sponsors, whose goals were to target the appropriate audiences. "The 'driver' tended to be television or some other form of heavy media coverage, which in turn attracted the major advertisiers in key categories such as automotive, beverages, and predominantly male products" (Nucifora). Television and radio rights for these Games were acquired by 156 nations and "it is estimated that more than 2.5 billion people were able to view the action" ("100 Years of Marketing"). For weeks before, and during the Olympics, sponsors used the Olympic Rings in commercials that aired during comedy hours, movies, sit-com entertainment, and sports programs (Metro Television). Research showed that all audiences recognized the Olympic Rings, though it is rare that something possesses such positive qualities to so many different constituencies (MasterFILE Premier). According to AT&T, "the Olympic symbols are the best-known and most respected in the world" (MasterFILE Premier). Olympic sponsors also targeted magazines. In fact, Sports Illustrated even had special advertising sections in all Olympic Edition issues (Delpy).
In addition to utilizing the global appeal of the Olympic Rings, a sponsor's goal was also to illustrate a positive image of the world coming together in peace to compete fairly (MasterFILE Premier). "The true meaning of a brand was the emotional link that consumers felt with the athletes, their commitment to the Olympic values, combined with the pageantry and glory that represent the Olympics" (Kane). The Olympic sponsors of 1984 worked hard to create a reason for consumers to believe in their products and to believe in the association between their brand and the Olympic brand (Kane). According to the Director of Marketing at the US Olympic Committee, "it was the power of the attachment that the consumer had with the even that was the ultimate measure of its value as an advertising vehicle" (Kane). Many sponsors found that telling dramatic narrative stories of athletes overcoming personal hardship was a very effective way of associating their brands with the heart of the Olympics (Eastman & Brown). Above All, research showed that any use of the Olympic Rings helped sponsors sell t-shirts, hats, pins, and other commodities (Gillam).
The 1984 Olympic Games: A Business Perspective
The 1984 Olympic Games were the first in Olympic history not to be publicly funded. This created a need for a larger role of corporations in the event, event planning, funding, and advertising. The Los Angeles Olympic Oranizing Committee depended fundamentally on the advertising of the Games' sponsors for its publicity. With the sponsors responsible for most of the Olympic advertising and a large portion of the budget's bill, many corporations became involved in the 1984 Summer Games with new tasks most companies had never assumed in Olympic sponsorship history.
Since 1896, previous Olympic Games have increased taxes in all but two host cities (McGraw-Hill). In the 1976 Games alone, taxpayers in host city Montreal assumed the responsibility of a $1.5 billion bill for the new sports facilities (Waters). In 1984, however, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee (LAOOC) ran the whole new set-up under the direction of Peter Ueberroth, its president. Ueberroth is a businessman from California who created First Travel Corporation, the second-largest travel company in North America (Waters). Ueberroth decided to run the 1984 Games as a business - a business that should have the earnings at least equal to its costs.
What does all of this have to do with Olympic advertsising? Hundreds of thousands of international visitors and about 2.5 billion viewers observed the Olympic Games, and thus the sponsors' contributions to the patriotic Games (PR Newswire 1981). With such a publicity opportunity for the LAOOC, Ueberroth made certain that the corporations chosen as official Olympic sponsors (therefore attaching the various Olympic logos to their advertsiements) were not only up-standing companies, but that they would be "proud" sponsors. The many companies attempted to prove their worthiness as official sponsors for the Games through gift pledges and corporate bids. Some of those awarded official sponsorship were: Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Atlantic Richfield, McDonald's, Levi Strauss, Converse, Buick Motor (General Motors), Southland Corporation, Mars Inc., Fuji, American Broadcasting Corporation and First Interstate Bank of California (McGraw-Hill). This title of official sponsorship did not, however, come without a hefty price tag. ABC sold more than $400 million worth of advertising, with prime-time 30-second spots costing as much as $260,000. Atlantic Richfield is just one of the companies that helped ABC with this sum by spending $11 million solely on advertising and promotion (more than they spent to become a sponsor). Anheuser-Busch also contributed, reportedly paying $20 million in television advertising fees during the Games. Many companies felt comfortable spending large amounts of money on their Olympic sponsorship advertising, in part, because ABC had promised 'make goods' to them under certain conditions. ABC guaranteed advertisers compensation in the form of credits for additional free commercials if viewer ratings turned out to be lower than expeccted (Keheo). Ratings ended up doing much better than expected during the Games, however, widely pleasing advertisers and companies (Television Digest, Inc.).
Corporations obviously want to be official Olympic sponsors to increase their own sales, but how does this sponsorhip increase Olympic enthusiasm? This is clearly a two-way street. Clients want to present an image of being beneficial, supportive, and facilitative; that is one thing that being an Olympic sponsor can do for them. The LAOOC, however, wanted to be recognized, and hoped to increase participation, and audience involvement. The sponsor's right to the various Olympic logos helps achieve this goal for both the company and the LAOOC. The general agreement with an official sponsor (although they all vary in regards to many things) usually includes that sponsor's right to use the "Star In Motion" emblem, "Sam the Olympic Eagle" mascot, and the title of "Official Sponsor of the 1984 Olympic Games" in connection with the marketing and promotion of their product only (PR Newswire 1981). The usage of the emblems, logos, and mascots create a positive image for the company as well as publicity for the Games. It's no wonder why so many companies are "proud" to be Olympic sponsors, and no wonder why the first ever free-enterprise Olympics turned out to be such a successful event.