Using the Olympics as a Team USA Sponsor

When the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games end later this Summer there are a few things we will know for sure: NBC, the official broadcaster of the Olympic Games, will be celebrating their new record audience and Team USA will be coming home with a lot of gold. It is the definition of the perfect (or great) storm: one of Americans’ most loved cities in the world hosting the Games in a very friendly time zone (we won’t miss the 12-hour Tokyo delay).

No doubt, the next edition of the Olympics will be the most successful in a very long time in the United States. This positive outlook offers a unique opportunity for brands interested in joining this party.

The opportunities available to become a global sponsor of the Olympics might be limited. After all, there are only so many TOP sponsors (TOP stands for “The Olympic Program”, the highest and most expensive level of association with the Olympic Games) allowed. But there is another excellent opportunity for brands interested in growing their business in America: becoming a Team USA sponsor.

Becoming a Team USA sponsor means sponsoring all American athletes for the next three Olympic Games.

When a country is selected as a future host, like the US for the Los Angeles Summer Games 2028, their National Olympic Committee rights are immediately bundled with many other assets. It’s worth noting that becoming a Team USA sponsor today means sponsoring the Los Angeles Games in 2028 and every Olympics before that from the Paris 2024 Games to the Milano-Cortina Winter Games in 2026.

This is the ideal approach either for large domestic companies or international companies with great interest in the US market as the rights are limited to the US territory.

As we publish, the “United States Olympic and Paralympic Properties - USOPP” (the body in charge of organizing the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles) have signed “Founding Partners,” the highest sponsorship level agreements, with Delta (airlines), Salesforce (CRM and Data Visualization), COMCAST (broadcast partner), and Anheuser-Busch. They have also signed lower tier deals with Lilly (“prescription medicine and health equity”), Hershey’s (“domestic food partner”), Nike, Oakley, Fanatics, and Polo Ralph Lauren (various categories of apparel, clothing, and equipment).

Pricey, but worth every dollar.

A partnership with Team USA is an expensive proposition compared to other countries, where sponsoring the team is as simple as sponsoring athletes in the next Olympic Games.

Cost can range from $50-$100 million (for the domestic supporters in the lowest category) to as high as $500 million dollars (for Founding Partner status). Product category, number of brands involved, and when the sponsorship is signed are a few of the factors impacting cost.

What makes Team USA so appealing for brands is the opportunity to activate the rights in three different Olympics, two abroad in very popular countries and the third at home. Good hosts are almost certain to deliver high viewership, visibility and interest from customers and consumers.

What you get for the spend?

The assets brands get with their sponsorships are proportional to the level they invest. Baseline is access to event marks not including the Olympic rings reserved for TOP sponsors. Exclusivity in the category is negotiated as well as access to hospitality opportunities (e.g. event-controlled hotel rooms) and tickets for purchase at face value. Brands become part of the Games communications (from press releases to mentions on their social media campaigns), limited access to athletes (a new offer developed by the LA28 team for the first time at the Olympic Games), and access to the Olympic venues to promote their products.

For the higher end of the spectrum, sponsors have the chance to develop an “exclusive program.” This is a blank canvas where the sponsor and LA28 teams will co-create the best possible program to make the Games even more exciting. Think about it as the opportunity to own a certain theme. For example, a brand whose consumers are young and interested in music, can choose to become the “Official Concert Promoter” of the Games. Another company, with expansive interests in California, might become the sponsor of the national Olympic Torch Relay for consistent presence, community to community. A third one in need to promote their sustainability efforts, can become the “Waste Management” or “Clean Air” partner.

Finally, sponsors at this highest level will receive a considerable part of their investment (30% to 40% of the fees) delivered back as media credit during the Olympic broadcasting serving as even further incentive for breakthrough campaigns. That’s considerable value back to the brand. And it’s a first. Yes, this is the first time the Olympic sponsorship is bundled with the event media, one of the more innovative approaches taken by the LA28 team.

How can these rights create value to your company?

Although Paris is right around the corner, newly onboarded sponsors still have time to profit from their association with the Games.

For consumer goods, the value resides in increased volume of promotions on e-commerce, digital and social promotion. In general, retailers attracted by the hype generated by the Olympics, work with the sponsors to increase the visibility of their brands in more friendly commercial terms. FMCG brands benefit immensely from this “flexibility of retailers.” If an isle at a supermarket would cost the brand $10,000/week, during the Olympics it can be deeply discounted (sometimes even free) for the sponsor. When you multiply by 4 or 5 displays per store times hundreds (if not thousands) of stores, the return on the investment of the sponsorship starts to look a lot greater than most executives anticipated.

For products or services, B2B or B2C brands, the positive ROI of the investment in the Olympics is quantifiable and positive. This is the reason why current sponsors tend to partner longer (Coca-Cola has been a sponsor since 1928!) and new ones are constantly bidding for the rights. It simply works.

But the rights alone are not enough.

With more than 11 million daily viewers on average in the US (three billion globally) and an anticipated increase over recent Games due to the friendly time zone of Paris, the Olympics will continue to be a sought-after sponsorship experience for all its excitement and pageantry.  To succeed at any sponsorship, the rights are necessary but not sufficient. In today’s crowded marketplace, creativity in how to use the rights, a solid communication strategy and a structured approach to paid and earned media are critical to the success of any sponsor. This is where Taylor can make a big difference for all brands. Our rich history in Olympic engagements spans almost every Olympic movement since 1984. We’ve partnered with the world’s leading brands including P&G, Kleenex, Adidas, Bristol-Meyers, Evian and AT&T to deliver and support award-winning campaigns like P&G’s Thanks Mom! which brought every US Olympic and Paralympic athlete’s mom to the Vancouver and London Olympiads to support and cheer them on. It was a first, for a campaign that thrives today in both brand impression and business growth. Let us work together to shape what’s possible for your brand and its Olympic investment.

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