U.S. Speedskating was sent reeling in October when Dutch Bank DSB went bankrupt, voiding a sponsorship and leaving the team with a $300,000 budget deficit.
The team found short-term relief in the most unlikely of places: Comedian Stephen Colbert used his satirical news program, “The Colbert Report,” to raise money and close the gap. Still, the team’s long-term financial situation remains gloomy.
“The Colbert Report is a nice plug for this year, but it’s not the same as having a sponsor that’s on board for four years,” U.S. Speedskating President Brad Goskowicz said. “After these games, we’ll be in the first year of the next quadrennium, and everyone’s eyes will turn elsewhere. It will be a lot more difficult to get sponsorships after these closing ceremonies are done — our worries will begin again.”
The stirring buzz that surrounded the Summer Games in Beijing last year quickly was tempered by the collapse of the world economy.
By year’s end, many companies that once supported the Olympics were struggling. Some declared bankruptcy. Others were unable to justify sponsorship spending to their shareholders.
Bank of America, Home Depot and Kellogg’s ended their support of the USOC this year. Kodak and Johnson & Johnson declined to renew long-term sponsorships of the International Olympic Committee.
But USOC officials were determined to find a way to increase funding to athletes despite the lost tens of millions of dollars in support.
They slashed budgets at USOC headquarters, cutting back on travel and administrative costs and laying off more than 50 workers.
As a result, the USOC managed to boost funds to its national governing bodies (NGBs) from $11.1 million during the 2006 Torino Games to $16.5 million for Vancouver.
“Todays economy has made it very difficult for our athletes and NGBs to maintain consistency and continuity of their programs,” acting USOC CEO Stephanie Streeter said at the time. “We believe this funding is essential in supporting our teams and helping our NGBs prepare their athletes and on the ground in Vancouver next winter.
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky pointed to new sponsorships with Procter and Gamble and renewals with Deloitte and Touche and AT&T as positive signs for Vancouver. Terms of those deals were not disclosed, but the values typically range between $10 million and $25 million, depending on the level of sponsorship.
We are pleased with the success the USOC has seen on the sponsorship front heading into the 2010 Vancouver Games, especially in light of todays economic challenges, he said.
Marketers said the public perception about sports sponsorships has improved since last year, when members of Congress questioned whether sporting events were a wise use of corporate dollars during the recession. But the recovery might be coming too late for Vancouver.
“The problem that exists is that budgets have been spoken for for ‘09 and there was some uncertainty for the early part of 2010,” said David Carter, principal of the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group. “So it may be hard for these companies to be agile enough to take advantage. Some of it is a timing gap that will play into this.”View Entire Story
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