The Media is the Message – Which Makes Problems for the Sponsors


By MICHAEL EVANS, Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

SOCOG’s former marketing boss has expressed doubts over whether media companies, especially newspaper companies, should be Games sponsors.

John Moore, now with Nuance Global Traders, said he was not convinced he had done the right thing by recommending to the SOCOG board that companies, including Fairfax, publisher of the Herald, and News Ltd, be approached to be Games sponsors.

“The media companies are finding it tough to be sponsor and critic,” Moore said. “I must take responsibility for recommending to the board – which they did approve – that I could invite media sponsors to become sponsors of the Games.”

Moore, who will prepare a submission for the International Olympic Committee’s marketing commission after the Games, said media companies had an obvious conflict of interest.

“It’s been a mixed result. It was almost a natural conflict position every day where editorial staff had to be the critics and Olympic management people in sponsorship were saying this is great or pulling their hair out and apologising almost daily for the bad news.”

“I think newspapers [category] has been particularly difficult … if you look at the contribution of both groups, Fairfax and News, it’s been an extraordinary effort and I think had we not had the blips it would’ve been spectacular. Then again, it was naive to think there wouldn’t be blips.”

Moore said the controversies which arose during SOCOG’s preparations – the “blips” – had exacerbated the problem of media sponsorship.

And he also said the sponsorship situation was responsible for the “blips” being given far more coverage than they would have got if they had occurred, for example, in Atlanta’s preparations. “A lot of these things would’ve been contained to back or middle pages of the Atlanta Constitution [and Journal, Atlanta’s main paper] and not been on the front page,” he said.

In creating a media sponsorship category, SOCOG decided it needed both major newspaper groups, Fairfax and News Ltd, to be Games sponsors to avoid a situation of one critic and one supporter.

Moore said media companies as Games sponsors was a new category. “Traditionally they’ve been broadcast rights-holders rather than sponsors,” he added.

Games sponsors normally buy exclusivity in categories. But News Ltd and Fairfax are each presenting partners for different SOCOG programs – News Ltd for the torch relay and ticket program and Fairfax for volunteers, a schools newspaper program and the Olympics Arts Festival.

Each sponsorship is believed to be valued at up to $30 million.

News Ltd also secured exclusive rights for some torch and ticketing information under agreements whereby they promoted these SOCOG programs.

Australians wanting to buy some Olympic tickets have also been required to buy a News Ltd newspaper carrying ticket information.

Fairfax provides advertising space to SOCOG, runs a schools newspaper and has printed volunteers supplements and application forms. Moore said all media companies played positive roles. “Whether it’s 2UE, Fairfax or News, they can and have played a contribution to putting on the Games,” he said.

But he doubted he would recommend to the IOC that similar schemes operate at future Games.

Moore said he was disappointed he had not been able to fulfill some of his promises to sponsors. “If I could do it all again I would certainly try to deliver on a promise I couldn’t – which was to have less sponsors with more opportunity,” he said.

An ever-increasing drive for revenue meant more sponsors were always required, he said.

“The budget took us to a point where we had to offer an opportunity to more companies than we had anticipated.

“That’s a lesson I will take for the rest of life. It was not as controllable, the manageability of the total program versus the necessity for revenue. I’m still very proud of every sponsor that came on.”

Asked what was the major problem Games organizers faced, Moore said: “We had too long to organize it to tell you the truth – it’s around so constantly.

“I remember someone saying to me, How are you going to keep this alive for five years? We’ll have to do whatever we can to keep public involved. At times people were burnt out and they felt the Olympic tremors, not the passion.”

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