The LA 2028 organizing committee has added a major corporate sponsor, signing a $400-million deal that will make Delta Air Lines the official airline of the 2028 Summer Olympics and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
The agreement, confirmed by a source not authorized to speak publicly, represents the next step in a long-term effort by organizers who need to attract big-money partnerships as they seek to cover the estimated $7 billion required to stage the Games.
“It sends a message that they are getting deals,” said George Belch, a professor in the Sports MBA program at San Diego State. “That keeps some of the pressure off them.”
Neither LA 2028 nor Delta would comment on the sponsorship, which was first reported by Sports Business Journal and includes Olympic broadcaster NBCUniversal.
Organizers have vowed to cover all expenses through sponsorships, ticket sales and other revenue sources. If LA 2028 cannot generate enough dollars, taxpayers would be left to pay the bill.
The L.A. City Council has agreed to serve as a financial backstop, and California legislators have similarly pledged up to $270 million in state tax dollars to cover any potential deficit.
It was almost a year ago that LA 2028 announced it would begin working with NBCUniversal to sell media and sponsorship deals in tandem. The arrangement was seen as unusual if only because organizers and broadcasters often work separately, and sometimes at odds with each other.
NBCUniversal made an undisclosed financial commitment to LA 2028, a pledge that could further ease concerns about the host committee’s ability to reach its goal of $2.5 billion in domestic sponsorships.
When L.A. agreed to take the Summer Games in 2028, letting Paris go first in 2024, a big part of the agreement involved greater flexibility in making such deals. Still, their $2.5-billion prediction is ambitious — even with Tokyo 2020 reporting a record $3 billion in sales — given a web of complex business relationships.
The International Olympic Committee lays claim to global deals in a number of major categories, such as vehicles, audio-TV and non-alcoholic beverages. That leaves LA 2028, in conjunction with the USOPC, to peddle sponsorships in other categories.
Wednesday’s deal was possible because the IOC does not have an airline among its most-important sponsors, leaving the door open for L.A. officials.
“You would think the airlines would be a good category [for the IOC],” Belch said. “That surprises me they are not dealing with one.”
Delta will assume its new role next year, after the 2020 Tokyo Games, replacing United, which had a lengthy association with the USOPC and Team USA that amounted to $4 million annually. The airline decided not to seek renewal for business reasons, said a person close to the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly.
“United Airlines has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Team USA athletes for nearly four decades and we are excited for the Tokyo Games later this summer,” a United spokesperson said. “Even after our sponsorship ends, we look forward to cheering proudly for our athletes and their unwavering competitive spirit for years to come.”
The terms of the Delta sponsorship run through 2028.
Another deal with Nike is expected to become public soon. An official announcement for Delta has been planned at Griffith Park Observatory on Monday.