Olympic sport of schmoozing eludes corporate sponsors

Olympic sport of schmoozing eludes corporate sponsors



NEW YORK (AP) — Screaming fans won't be the only thing missing from this year's Olympic Games in Tokyo. Behind the scenes, there won't much schmoozing for corporate sponsors either, thanks to the pandemic.

The corporate sponsorship program has been a key part of the Olympic experience since it began in 1985. More than a dozen or so names like Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble pay millions of dollars in each four-year cycle on sponsorship and marketing programs that includes wining and dining athletes, top employees and key clients at Olympic events.

But all that networking opportunity has been undermined because of the virus. Brands were already dealing with uncertainty regarding the fate of the Tokyo Olympics, which had been delayed from 2020. The games have now turned into a mostly TV-event after the Japanese government put Tokyo under a COVID-19 state of emergency because of rising new infections and the highly contagious delta variant.

Rick Burton, professor of sport management at Syracuse University, said worldwide sponsors typically use the event to entertain dignitaries from other countries where they hope to pursue a business venture as well as clients with whom they hope to cinch deals or deepen relationships.

“There are so few opportunities to take someone to somewhere else in the world—it’s an extravaganza,” said Burton, who served as the chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee for the 2008 Beijing games. “I can take you to an NFL game or an NBA game, but it isn’t as big as the Olympics.”

But even with a muted Tokyo Olympics, corporate sponsors still see a golden opportunity to market their brand with such trademark symbols as the torch.

“The Olympic brand is so strong in the hearts and minds of people around the world,” said Rob Prazmark,...

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