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IOC marketing supremo: Smile, Beijing
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Some of his anecdotes are amusing - for example the story of the mysterious and intrusive McDonalds neon sign that appeared behind the entrance to the stadium at the Atlanta Games, plumb in the centre of the television screen as every team made its appearance:

''The restaurant carrying the sign was mysteriously locked. By the time the arriving teams had reached the letter 'D' I had someone break in and switch off the electricity. Two hours later at the post-ceremony reception we had a fulsome apology from the CEO of McDonalds, who could not understand how such an oversight might have occurred...''

Another example concerns a worldwide confectionery company and one of the most famous chocolate bars in the world - a ubiquitous presence at all world sporting events. The sponsor insisted on 'physical presence' marketing - employing mascots to leap out during the marathon and wave at the cameras.

''We tore up a contract with one of most important food companies in world and refused to work with them,'' says Payne. ''We told them: if you want to work with the Olympics, you play by our rules.''

Other stories tell of harder battles with the toughest of opponents.

''Ambush Marketing'' - the practice by which non-sponsors try to hijack the Games to promote their own products - is a constant problem. In 1996, for the Centennial Games in Atlanta, non-sponsor Nike came up with a typically hard-hitting campaign - what would be admired in the advertising industry as 'sexy' and 'edgy'. The theme of the campaign was blunt and uncompromising: ''You didn't win silver - you lost gold''.

The IOC felt that the campaign struck at the very heart of one of the most cherished of its own values: It's the taking part that counts. It went in to do battle with Nike on its own territory - the media. Both sides dug in and refused to compromise, but in the end it was Nike who blinked first.

''We lined up a series of silver-winning athletes who said they would tear up their Nike contracts in front of the world's press,'' says Payne. ''We proved that we meant business - cross that line and we will take you on. Nike went back and said 'well, maybe you're right after all'. To their credit, they have gone on to become an incredible partner and supporter of the Olympic dream, one of the staunchest backers of the ideals and the values of the Olympics.''

China Youth Daily recently cited a piece of third party research suggesting that Games sponsorship had been successful for only about 30 percent of companies involved in sponsoring the Atlanta Games. Payne is combative in response to this, and categorical in his assessment of the value of Olympics sponsorship:

''Such research is doing a disservice to the research industry, and entirely missing the point about what Olympic sponsorship is about. Their conclusions are based on the extent to which people in the street can name the Olympic sponsors.

''But a company's whole marketing platform is targeted. If you're a business-to-business company you don't care whether people in the street can name you as an Olympic sponsor. If you're a consumer product company looking to impact image, what matters is not whether people can name you in the street - it's what happens at the customer's decision point in the supermarket. If the sponsorship wasn't working the top sponsors would not be renewing time after time - not at the sums of money we are dealing with here. The Olympic marketing program is delivering very tangible results - Olympic marketing is without doubt the most powerful marketing tool available.''

On China's own commercial effort, Payne is complimentary. ''I think China has done an incredible job with its marketing program,'' he says. ''It's certainly generated more revenues that any other marketing programs, and that includes America. That's obviously an indication of the size of the country and its growing economic importance.''

''The Olympics has been a catalyst generally for developing the marketing industry in China,'' he says. ''As markets open up and you have more Chinese companies fighting with international industries to claim their share, people will look back on this as an incredible learning experience for Chinese companies - not only coming up to speed with modern marketing techniques, but in some cases themselves developing very innovative and creative programs. And the whole thing does not stop at the time of the closing ceremony. Being on the world stage is very important, and China must continue to take advantage the opportunity afforded by the hosting of the Olympics.''

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