The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has attacked new research by CIA Medialab that suggests only half the UK viewers of the Sydney Games knew who its official sponsors were.
IOC marketing director Michael Payne said name recall is not an issue for sponsors. 'It's like asking the average person in the street who advertised on TV the night before,' he said. 'Sponsors rather use the Olympics as the showcase for product innovation, hospitality and a wealth of other reasons.'
The research implied that the 11 top-level backers had wasted hundreds of millions of pounds on their association with the event. It indicated that in several product categories, more people thought sponsors' main rivals were involved than the actual sponsors themselves. Seven per cent of those surveyed named Seiko as an official partner, but only 6% knew that Samsung was the official backer in the wireless communications equipment category.
Similarly, 6% named both Visa and American Express as backers, despite Amex having no official involvement with the Team Millennium Olympic Partner programme, the top level of sponsorship for which Visa paid about pounds 33m, covering Sydney 2000 and 1998's Nagano Winter Games.
According to the CIA Medialab report: 'Sponsorship is suffering from clutter, with so many major brands sponsoring so many different events that consumers are finding it hard to differentiate. In order to achieve effective sponsorship standout, millions of pounds are simply not enough.'
A Samsung spokesman backed Payne and said that name recall was not a factor against which the company measured the impact of its sponsorship investment. He added that the company expects to achieve about pounds 300m worth of brand exposure benefits from its Olympics backing.
Nine of the 11 top sponsors, including McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Kodak, have already renewed their association for the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games in 2002, and Athens two years later. Negotiations are ongoing with UPS over the future of its involvement, while IBM has been replaced.