Timo Lumme from Working the Olympics

olympic smoke rings

The following interview was first published in Working the Olympics. It gives an excellent overview of the value of the IOC for major corporates and offers, typically of Timo, a very insightful and pragmatic assessment of the challenges of Olympic marketing.

Timo is the Managing Director of IOC Television & Marketing Services – the broadcast-rights marketing arm of the International Olympic Committee, responsible for the sale of television and new media rights, and the negotiation, sale, and management of the IOC’s global ‘TOP’ programme.

I think the time when the IOC could sit separately from the marketplace is largely gone.

Back in 2004, when the IOC took marketing and television functions in-house, that already heralded a new commitment to engagement with our commercial partners.

Take the Youth Olympic Games. The Partners came on board during the germination and gestation of the idea, and genuinely contributed to the development process. And as we look to evolve a more stand-alone IOC youth strategy, then our Partners are saying: ‘Look, were interested, lets work on it together.’

One of the challenges we have is that the Olympics is like a treasure trove. We’ve just spent the best part of two years collating and fully understanding everything the IOC does – just the IOC, and excluding the work of the Olympic subsidiaries, in order to explain to our partners how they can get involved. At the end of the day, we need to focus on those things that are going to make the biggest difference. There are a lot of other things that could be done but our priority has to be to ensure the Games are as successful as possible.

Its the most transformational business opportunity you could ever wish for your business

For any company wanting to get involved in Olympic partnership, over and above anything else, the over-riding critical success factor is to have a clear idea of your objective – it all starts from that. More or less without exception, the most successful partnerships, at global or national level, have been where a company has had a vision, which translated into clear business and marketing objectives, and was then used to structure a deal – and, of course, where the business continued to ensure the resource of human capital and other requirements, including investment, was used to deliver against the objectives.

The beauty of P&Gs partnership proposition lies in its very simplicity: just as the Olympics are universally aspirational, every one of us owes an enormous debt to our parents.

Procter and Gamble were incredibly excited about. What was interesting with P&G was that they, in a very short time, tested, came on board with the US team and tested again. Its a very interesting story: they took a couple of agencies – and gave them a weekend to come up with a positioning. The result was Thank you Mom’, with its clear focus, which was great in two ways: firstly, it was a brilliantly simple idea that captured the ultimate business objective of P&G, and was easy to execute, especially in the context of the US team. So they implemented in Vancouver and got very exciting data back: their measurements, they told us, were going off the scale.

And the second point, from a corporate perspective, was that they were looking to find some sort of property or tool to bring all their brands together under the P&G umbrella – which again the Olympics clearly provided. So those two ideas converged, and based on that, Procter and Gamble were happy to sign a long term agreement in 2010 through to 2020. Their focus in terms of implementation has not just been the host country. Actually, their initial focus was on the National Olympic Committee territories to forge their business, and I think thats why we see it as something thats really going to move the meter through London.

Its the most transformational business opportunity. Its just that it requires motivation, energy, gusto and creativity to figure it out.

GE is a world leading company and what I think characterises a lot of these companies is once they set their mind to something and decide to execute, there’s nobody better. In GEs case, it was interesting because they came on as the cherry on the pie, on the back of the original NBC US broadcast deal back in 2004 for Vancouver and London. If Im honest, they didn’t really realise what they were going to get out of it, but they effectively generated around US$800m of incremental revenue in China alone.

And then again there was the notion that it was a fantastic way to unite a very disparate company. If you know anything about Jack Welch, youll know he took the company through a lot, very fast-moving corporately – divesting the lowest performers, acquiring new ones, always working on margins. Which meant that again they were looking for a really high level clarion call or torch, that would create a clear focus: we are GE and we are Olympic Partners. It was interesting because it was a company that had no real history of above the line marketing.

One of the issues we have faced in the past to an extent, both as the IOC and also at OCOG level, is a lack of education and information about ‘what the Olympic marketing opportunity is, and how can you get involved. So I guess my message is aimed at people who may look at Olympic marketing and think ‘It all seems a bit complicated’ – because actually its not. Its the most transformational business opportunity that you could ever wish for your business; and thats not me saying that, its hundreds of companies across many different categories in many different territories, over the last 25-30 years. Its just that it requires motivation, energy, gusto and creativity to figure it out. And if you have those, you will find yourself in a space which is not only rewarding but very exclusive to you. Its one of the good things about the Rings – they are very heavily protected – you read about all the stuff thats going on to protect them. Its very difficult for someone to dilute the value. As much as we speak about ambush marketing – Im not saying there aren’t cases of it – but its actually very difficult to do meaningfully.