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HE'S had his job as vice president for Olympic marketing at SportsMark Management Group — the Larkspur, Calif.-based corporate hospitality, event management and sports-marketing company — only since January. But Allen Brooks, an accomplished athlete himself, is already racing to develop marketing opportunities for SportsMark's blue-chip clients in connection with the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2010 Games in Vancouver, B.C.

SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: Do you foresee marketing opportunities that will be unique to the Beijing Olympics? And to Vancouver?

ALLEN BROOKS: As a sports marketing agency that has been going into China for some years now, I see an opportunity for us to help shape the sports marketing and hospitality industry in China. We have developed good partnerships with local companies and through that have been able to share ideas. There is also a tremendous opportunity for the sponsoring companies of the 2008 Games to be associated with the power and magic of the Olympics being held in a country that will capture the eyes of the world. The popular “numbers game” for the {huge} China market is a dynamic that has not been faced by an Olympics to date.

As for Vancouver, an interesting dynamic at play is that the 2010 Games potentially represent the last Olympics on North American soil for some time — conceivably not until 2024. So the Vancouver Olympics become important for North America from the standpoint of broadcast media and live TV, from the perspective of sponsor companies being able to leverage an Olympics on home soil — or close to home soil — and for that more-direct connection to and impact with the hometown athletes. In short, they represent a potentially rare opportunity for North American companies to draw a more intimate connection with the excitement and power of the Olympics.

Q: As the World Cup finally begins to make headway in the U.S., will that competition vie more directly with the Olympics for sports marketing budgets?

A: There could be some impact from the standpoint that in the end, there are a finite number of multinational companies that have both the necessary marketing budgets for an Olympic or World Cup sponsorship and also have compelling business reasons for such an international marketing investment. On the other hand, the two properties also offer different value propositions and brand alignment opportunities, both of which would need to fit with the prospective sponsoring company. Companies that have made the decision to sponsor both properties have different strategies and approaches for each.

Q: What does the Olympics represent that other sports events do not?

A: An interesting element to the Olympics is their unique ability to be multiple things to many people, sometimes in a contradictory way. They are globally focused with messages of peace and unity and yet are celebrations of national pride and diversity. They are inclusive and participatory, celebrating all athletes who take part, but are also seen as the ultimate in sporting achievement for the winner. And the Olympics are seen as much more than just a sporting event but are also the ultimate in sporting events. The Olympics are steeped in history and grew out of strong ideals, which remain an important part of the pageantry, soul and essence of what the Olympics are today. Sponsors who are able to attach themselves to and leverage against this property gain powerful differentiating factors in their marketing efforts.

Q: Have the goals of corporations that invest in Olympics marketing changed over the years?

A: Earlier, companies were sponsoring with the Olympics for its brand power and attraction but failed to demand a lot in return. There was a sense of achievement in simply being a sponsor and having access to the assets that an Olympics provides. But there has been a shift in focus to concentrate on the return on investment and making the Olympic assets and relationship deliver to the bottom line. We are asked more and more to assist clients in developing tactics and approaches that allow for measurement and tracking of the “needle moving” impacts of their sponsorships. Long gone are the days of bottomless marketing budgets spent without concern for effectiveness. More and more companies are looking for sponsorship investments to deliver access into new markets or segments, boost sales, build brand recognition, help redefine image and, ultimately, positively impact the bottom line.

Allen Brooks is based in SportsMark's Vancouver, B.C., office; phone 604/929-9219; e-mail [email protected].

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