- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY When figure skaters at the Winter Olympics feel the tears welling up weepy, blubbery, inevitable plenty of tissues will be on hand.
But not just any tissues.
Thanks to a sponsorship deal, the only tissues available in the post-skate "kiss and cry" area will come courtesy of Kleenex, the official supplier for the Games.
"When people see skaters come off the ice, they expect to see Kleenex there," said Kurt Simon, product manager for Kleenex. "It's a good fit for our brand."
With more than $840 million in goods, services and cash flowing in from 65 sponsors, the Salt Lake City Olympics are more than just a good fit for corporate America they are 16 days of marketing glory.
Think computers from Gateway. French fries from McDonald's. Photocopiers from Xerox. At the main Olympic press center, two giant banners listing 17 of the Games' premier sponsors hang from the ceiling, a not-so-subtle reminder of what the Olympic movement is all about.
"[The Salt Lake Organizing Committee] can already award itself a gold medal," said Michael Payne, the International Olympic Committee's director of marketing.
If you're so inclined, you can slurp the official Olympic soup (Campbell's), fly the official airline (Delta) and get an earful of incomprehensible technobabble from the official UNIX server solution provider (Sun Microsystems).
There's even an official supplier of Olympic walnuts, Diamond of California, which is "proud to provide the world's top athletes with heart-healthy nut products."
"From a marketing standpoint, the Olympics are the ultimate," said Kara Schneck, director of marketing communications for NuSkin, the Games' official hair and skin care provider. "We're also a global company, so it's a great opportunity to be a part of the biggest global sporting event going."
Amazingly enough, Salt Lake's drive for sponsorship gold was nearly derailed in 1998. After a bribery scandal rocked the Games' organizing committee, some sponsors balked. These included Johnson & Johnson, which reportedly pulled out of a $30 million commitment.
Scrambling to cover a $400 million deficit on a budget that would total more than $1.9 billion, Olympic organizers cut costs and redoubled their efforts to land sponsors. The result? A record haul that tops the previous high of $633 million, set at the much larger 1996 Atlanta Games.
Salt Lake's take also dwarfs the $140 million raised for the 1984 Los Angeles Games, the first Olympics to receive major corporate support.
"Here we are at the eve of the Games, and we have yet to borrow a single dollar," Salt Lake Organizing Committee finance director Gordon Crabtree said last week. "That's a very significant milestone that has been accomplished."
What do companies receive for their largesse, which ranges from a piddling $3 million to a hefty $60 million? In many cases, it's little more than the chance to provide Olympic organizers with products and services they otherwise would have to pay for themselves. Consider:
Hallmark, the self-styled "personal expression industry leader," is supplying Team USA with greeting cards and flowers.
In and around Olympic venues, media members and organizers can nosh on "incredibly tender, naturally juicy and abundantly flavorful" meat products from Angus Beef.
As the "official nutritional energy bar supplier" for the Games, PowerBar is providing "unlimited access" to its products in the Athletes' Village.
Harris Interactive is supplying polls "to help the United States Olympic Committee and the SLOC better understand the public's feelings" about Team USA.
Sears is supplying home appliances, presumably for the downhill washing machine race.
In the Olympic village, athletes are sleeping on Sealy mattresses.
NuSkin has set up three temporary beauty salons, donated 33,000 athlete and volunteer gift bags and is providing 1,500 gallons of sunscreen, 150,000 sticks of lip balm and 35,500 bottles of shampoo.
"Your relationship with the Olympics brings another dimension to who you are," Ms. Schneck said. "The Olympics stand for really solid values of integrity and dedication. We share those values. So it's a good marriage."
And like a jealous husband, Olympics officials keep a close eye on that union. The SLOC deploys "mystery shoppers" and works with the U.S. Customs Service to sniff out counterfeit goods. In January, St. Louis undercover detectives confiscated a large cache of counterfeit Olympic merchandise that included 1,500 T-shirts, baseball caps with Olympic logos, and boxes of Olympic flags and pins.
Organizers also run a brand-protection office to guard against "ambush marketing" by corporations not affiliated with the Games, a corporate tactic that was commonplace in Atlanta.
For instance, Discount Tire Co. commissioned a billboard on Utah's Interstate 85 showing five interlocking tires and greetings in five languages. After Olympic attorneys protested, the tires were repainted to appear in a row.
The SLOC also won a recent restraining order against Quiksilver Inc., which was producing Olympic-themed T-shirts and pins.
"[Ambush marketing] seems to be absolutely under control here," IOC marketing chairman Gerhard Heiberg said last week.
Amid the corporate clutter, the IOC does make efforts to keep the Games from looking like a logo-coated NASCAR rig. Minimal as those efforts may be.
Sponsors generally aren't allowed field-of-play visibility at Olympic venues the Delta Center has been dubbed the "Salt Lake Ice Center" and athletes can wear only small manufacturers' markings on their uniforms.
Hallmark, which also is supplying the "official flower bouquets" to all medal winners, attempted to sidestep the IOC by placing its crown logo on the bouquets' ribbons. Olympic marketing officials quickly nixed the idea.
The flowers part of Hallmark's $20 million sponsorship were allowed to stay.
"You have to remember that this is about the athletes and the love of the sport," Ms. Schneck said. "They're center stage."
So long as sponsors play by the rules, however, they are seldom far from the spotlight. At the Ice Center, home to the figure skating competition, NuSkin has set up a salon to provide athletes with free hair and makeup styling.
"We give the skaters a chance to do their makeup for them," Ms. Schneck said. "That's one less thing they have to worry about on the ice."
And if those skaters need a tissue?
"We only use Kleenex."


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