CRF Blog

Business and the Olympics

by David De La Torre

In Victors and spoils, The Economist looks at the big business of the Olympics.

IN ANCIENT GREECE it was impossible to stitch a sponsor’s logo to an Olympic athlete’s singlet or shorts, because the competitors were all naked. In today’s London it is still impossible. Though clothing is now allowed at the Olympics — indeed it is compulsory — so is a veneer of amateurism. No advertisements are allowed in the stadium; no logos may be emblazoned on the athletes’ kit

Behind the veneer, commercial interests are vying furiously for gold. The sums involved make Russian weightlifters look insubstantial. The British government’s budget for the games has risen to £9.3 billion ($14.5 billion) from an initial estimate of £2.4 billion. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has raised $4.87 billion in broadcast fees and sponsorship for the four-year cycle that includes the London summer games as well as the Vancouver winter Olympics of 2010. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), which is actually in charge of staging the games, has raised another £700m in sponsorship; it is raking in pots more by selling tickets and licensing souvenirs.

Eleven global sponsors (known as top Olympic partners, or TOPs) pay fat sums to the IOC for the right to use the Olympic brand. Only one TOP sponsor is allowed in each commercial category: Coca-Cola for soft drinks, Panasonic for televisions and so on. [more]