The International Olympic Committee, which is struggling to control damage done by a scandal that led to the expulsion of several members, on Monday awarded an advertising account valued at $150 million to TBWA/Chiat/Day.
The brand advertising campaign that will begin early in 2000 will focus on athletes from around the world who compete in a variety of sports, according to TBWA/Chiat/Day spokesman Jeremy Miller. In addition to creative work, Los Angeles-based TBWA/Chiat/Day will ensure that the IOC makes effective use of advertising and marketing opportunities stemming from broadcast contracts with media outlets in 200 countries.
IOC executives said that the competition, which drew bids from 20 advertising agencies, predated the scandal. That scandal sprang from reports that some IOC members had accepted cash, trips and other inducements in conjunction with votes on where future games would be held. Although the IOC didn't state the contract's value, observers set the cumulative value of advertising at about $150 million.
The campaign's emphasis on athletes struck a responsive chord among sports marketers who have watched the IOC struggle to return media coverage to on-the-field events rather than behind-the-scenes deals that determined where future Olympic Games are held.
"Putting the emphasis on athletes is a wise path to follow," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Celebrity, a Chicago-based sports marketing firm. "Look at the success of the NBA in recent years from marketing that was completely player-based. And remember the terrific rise in the popularity of baseball last summer with Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire."
Miller said that the advertising campaign would include input from TBWA/Chiat/Day offices in New York and abroad, but be spearheaded by the agency's Los Angeles office.