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London 2012 Calling: And Getting Louder by the Minute

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

August 3, 2011

Karla lives in Carlsbad, California, and she was understandably a little dismayed on Tuesday when she read in the Los Angeles Times that Bojana Jovanovski, a pro tennis player on the WTA currently ranked #56 in the world, mistakenly flew from a tournament in Washington D.C. to Carlsbad, New Mexico rather than Carlsbad-By-the-Sea in Northern San Diego County to play in the Mercury Insurance Open taking place this week.

It’s likely Jovanovski won’t suffer the same case of destination consternation if she is picked by the Serbian Olympics committee to represent her country at the 2012 Olympic Games in London next summer. Yes, it’s possible that she might alight from a flight in London, Ontario, Canada; London, Ohio; London, Texas; or even back in California (London, in the heart of CA’s Central Valley). But with all the already-escalating activation surrounding the Games that commence one year from now in London, England, UK, surely some savvy GPS company will seize the opportunity and sign Jovanovski on the spot.

As long as they’re clear on where that spot is.

With the 2012 London Games officially less than a year away, expect to start seeing more and more Olympic athletes signing endorsement deals. Some big dominoes began falling last week when Bank of America signed U.S. soccer players Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, and Alex Morgan to serve as spokespeople. All three players made substantial gains in marketing awareness surveys because of the women’s national team FIFA World Cup Finals appearance.

Another familiar name to watch is 44 year-old U.S. swimmer and former gold medalist Dara Torres. Johnson & Johnson has signed Torres to endorse the company’s BENGAY brand, and she is also confirmed to be a McDonald’s brand ambassador during next year’s Summer Games.

One person not likely to land a McDonald’s endorsement is British boxer Amir Khan. Kahn criticized the London Olympics Committee for allowing McDonald’s to open its largest-ever restaurant in the Olympic Park, saying it sends the wrong message about living a healthy lifestyle.

Companies are showing their 2012 Summer Olympics colors as well. BMW just announced that it will provide financial support as well as engineering expertise to help U.S. Olympic athletes train more efficiently. As a BMW senior technology engineer explained, the “stereo-vision” technology, which utilizes digital video data algorithms, that the company uses to test automobile safety systems can also be applied to sports. The company is currently in the middle of a stereo-vision trial with U.S. track and field athletes, helping them to fine-tune their techniques.

To mark the year-out milestone to the London 2012 Olympic Games, Citi, an official sponsor of the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams and the U.S. Olympic Committee, last week held a ceremonial Citi Team USA flag-raising event outside the Citibank Financial Center at its headquarters in New York City. Olympic silver medalist Alicia Sacramone (gymnastics), Olympic gold medalist Susan Francia (rowing), and two-time Paralympic gold medalist Jeremy Campbell (discus, pentathlon) joined Citi CEO Vikram Pandit and employees to kick off the one-year countdown.

“Observing this important milestone on the Olympic calendar with inspiring athletes was a great way to celebrate our sponsorship of Team USA,” said Citi CEO Vikram Pandit. “Helping America’s athletes fulfill their Olympic dreams is one way to demonstrate our support for the athletes and our country, reinforcing the commitment to excellence we share. In 2012, our 200th anniversary, we will be proud to stand with our nation’s Olympians and Paralympians as they bring the best of the American spirit to London.”

Olympic rings aside, the only color that really matters in London or any other Olympic city is gold. So for endorsement dollars and medal counts alike, keep an eye on Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, and Italy’s Federica Pellegrini. Reportedly, whenever the World Aquatics Championships fall within two years of the Olympic Games, the results reliably predict Olympic gold medalists. This trend bodes especially well for American swimmers, who led the swimming medal count at the just-completed event in Shanghai), with 29, including 16 golds.

Marketers, take your marks.

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Beyond the Scoreboard
Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.
Beyond the Scoreboard eBook
Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.

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