13 years ago
Aidan Skoyles

The Olympics are over now. The athletes are home, glowing from their Olympic experience – or perhaps glittering gold.

In corporate America, the sponsor companies like Home Depot, Visa and Monster.com (which supplies “official online career management” for athletes with aspirations beyond Home Depot shelf-stacking) are counting up the gold they spent on ads and hoping to stay out of their most feared color – the red.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) cracks open the bubbly to celebrate a successful games – no terrorist acts, no (significant) scandals and no ads around their purist sporting venues.

OK, so the third item isn’t a big deal for most people, but as advertising manager of The Mercury, I notice this stuff.

None of those fields or courts or pools or pitches in Athens had any ads around them, and it’s the result of the IOC. The committee walks the fine line between splattering gaudy ads across athletes’ chests and reaping the millions by allowing eager companies access to the four billion viewers.

Although the IOC appears to disdain the world of advertising, what many people don’t know is that aside from the up to $65 million each sponsor has spent to use the rings logo in its ads, the IOC’s real cash cow is the TV rights.

NBC, EuroSport, who knows, maybe even Al Jazeera, pay the IOC to pour coverage of the sporting events on their respective markets.

NBC is reported to have paid $793 million for the Athens rights, which it will make back selling 14,000 commercial spots for $1 billion total.

For all but the comparative handful of people who actually braved the crowds to attend an Olympics, watching the games has become a commercial onslaught and is slowly going the way of the Super Bowl. I know I’m not the only one who watches as much for the ads as for the game.

At the Olympics though, the IOC has done a noble job in mediating the messages.

Sure, no one thinks a Chase Bank logo behind Shaq’s big shot makes him any less of a sportsman, and British football fans don’t think Wayne Rooney is a phony because of a Vodafone logo slapped across his chest. But somehow, the lack of ads at the games really does make them seem more pure, more focused, more about what it should be about – the sport.

The IOC should continue moderating ads at venues. Without their discretion, the games will soon look like Nascar. We might overlook the sport and instead end up at McDonald’s, paying, of course, with Visa.