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IOC Is Not Renewing Marketing Agreement

November 01, 2002|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

In a striking sign of the political machinations marking the behind-the-scenes action of the organization, the International Olympic Committee has given notice to its successful marketing company, Meridian Management, that it does not intend to renew their deal when the current one is up, at the end of 2004.

The IOC, in a letter signed by President Jacques Rogge, gave notice about three weeks ago to Meridian, which has offices in Atlanta and near IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Meridian, created to take over Olympic marketing in 1996 from the Swiss firm ISL -- which last year declared bankruptcy -- has overseen tremendous growth in the IOC's first-tier sponsorship program, which goes by the name TOP.

Seven TOP sponsors -- all big-name corporations such as Coca-Cola and Samsung -- have already renewed their deals, worth about $65 million for four years, for the period 2005-2008. By comparison, the U.S. Olympic Committee has signed no new deals for that period.

Despite Meridian's success, the IOC, in the midst of restructuring and a series of internal audits, has been signaling that it intends to take as much direct control as possible over its essential franchise -- the Games.

Against that backdrop, several key IOC managers have been jockeying for position and influence with Rogge, who took over as president last year: Thierry Sprunger, the finance manager; Gilbert Felli, who oversees the sports programs; and marketing director Michael Payne.

In recent months, for instance, the IOC has announced plans to form its own Olympic broadcast management service. Ending the Meridian deal would enable the IOC to take its marketing matters in-house as of 2005.

Payne could not be reached Thursday for comment.

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