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London 2012 Olympic Sponsorship Roundup

Forbes, July 18, 2012

By Jackquelyn Smith

In just nine days, billions of people in more than 200 countries and territories throughout the world will tune in to watch the opening ceremony of the biggest sporting event on the planet. With 26 sports, 10,500 athletes and 11 worldwide sponsors, the 2012 Olympic Games is something you won’t want to miss.

In fact, to ensure you know exactly when the Games kick off next week, the official London 2012 website features a real-time countdown sponsored by Omega.

Omega is just one of the world’s recognizable brands working with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a sponsor this year, providing vital financial support and contributions of goods and services to the Olympic Games. Each of this year’s worldwide sponsors are spending tens–or hundreds–of millions of dollars on the opportunity to tie their brand directly to the Olympic Games with hopes that they’ll see some return.

The Olympic Partners program (TOP), the worldwide sponsorship program managed by the IOC, was first introduced 1985 “to develop a diversified revenue base for the Olympic Games and to establish long-term corporate partnerships that would benefit the Olympic Movement as a whole,” says the official IOC website. The TOP program operates on a four-year term, also known as the Olympic quadrennium. It is currently in its seventh cycle.

However, sponsors were supporting the games long before the TOP was implemented. During the 1896 Olympics in Athens, a number of companies contributed revenue for the first time through advertising in the souvenir program. Sixteen years later, during the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, about 10 Swedish companies were given permission to purchase the sole rights to sell memorabilia and take photographs.

Fast-forward 100 years to 2012. Today there are 11 major worldwide sponsors supporting the Olympic Games. Here they are:


Acer joined the TOP program in 2009—making this its first four-year cycle as a partner. It debuted as a sponsor during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. As the official computing equipment sponsor, Acer is working to ensure the Olympic Games run flawlessly. According to its website, Acer technicians will provide ground supports to the PC infrastructure during the Games, “thus ensuring that all their equipment runs smoothly and delivers all the excitement of the Olympics to people all over the world.”

Atos Origin

Atos, the worldwide IT partner of the London 2012 Olympics, will lead the technology effort for the staging of the Olympic Games this summer. The company first supported the Games in Barcelona in 1992 as Sema. It later joined the TOP program in 2001 as SchlumbergerSema—and has been a sponsor ever since. Steve Cram, the UK London 2012 Ambassador for Atos, said: “I will strive to enhance the viewer’s experience during London 2012 with real-time, relevant information on the athletes and their achievements.”


Coca-Cola first sponsored the Olympics in 1928 when a freighter delivered the U.S. team and 1,000 cases of Coca-Cola to the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. The beverage company, which has sponsored every Olympic Games since, was a charter TOP partner. It has been a member of the program since 1986, and in 2005, the company and the IOC announced that the partnership will extend an additional 12 years, lengthening its role as a Worldwide Olympic Partner through 2020. At that point, Coca-Cola will be in its 92nd year of sponsorship without interruption.


Dow joined the TOP program in 2010, making this its first four-year cycle as a sponsor. It’s the official chemistry company for the Olympic Movement through 2020. As an Olympic sponsor, Dow will work to “employ expertise, environmentally focused technologies and innovative thinking to create product solutions that lessen the impact on the environments of the host territories and help to promote social and environmental responsibility across the globe.” Dow says its partnership will enable the company to demonstrate the important role chemistry plays in athletics and in everyday life.


GE joined the TOP program in 2005 as the exclusive provider of a wide range of innovative products and services that are “integral to staging a successful Olympic Games.” According to the Olympic Movement website,, GE is working closely with London and all organizing committees to provide infrastructure solutions for venues including power, lighting, water treatment and transportation. The company is also supplying local hospitals with diagnostic-imaging equipment and healthcare technology solutions to help doctors treat athletes.

Last year GE extended its global Olympic sponsorship through 2020. That deal was announced three weeks after NBC, which was formerly controlled by GE, secured the U.S. broadcast rights from 2014 through 2020 for $4.38 billion.


This year marks the ninth consecutive Games that McDonald’s will feed the athletes as the Official Restaurant of the Olympics. Prior to joining the TOP program in 1997, McDonald’s sponsored the 1975 Olympics in Montreal. However, its commitment to the Olympic Movement began even earlier, in 1968, when the company airlifted hamburgers to U.S. athletes in Grenoble, France, after they reported being homesick for American food, the corporate website says.

Controversy has swirled around this sponsorship over the years—but the fast-food giant promises it will “continue to communicate with kids about the importance of balanced eating and active lifestyles through our partnership with the Games.”

In January McDonald’s announced it renewed its sponsorship through the 2020 Olympic Games.


Long before Omega was named the official timing and scoring sponsor of the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000–and before it joined the TOP program in 2003–the Swiss watch manufacturer produced the world’s first independent, portable and water-resistant photoelectric cell, which made its Olympic debut at the London 1948 Games. At the Helsinki Games four years later, Omega became the first company to use electronic timing in sports with the OMEGA Time Recorder. It went on to invent devices that allowed the time of each competitor to be displayed on a TV screen, as well as the “contact pads” for swimming competitions. Over the years the brand’s timekeeping devices were used to capture many golden moments.

In 2009 Omega extended its partnership through 2020, promising to invest more than 1 billion Swiss francs into sports timekeeping over the next decade.


Panasonic, formerly known as Matsushita, was a charter TOP partner. It joined in 1987 as an official worldwide partner in the Audio and Visual Equipment category. Under the slogan “Sharing the Passion,” Panasonic has renewed its partnership with the IOC through the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Procter & Gamble

P&G joined the TOP program in 2010 as the official Personal Care and Household Products sponsor, making London 2012 its debut as a sponsor of the summer Games. Its “Thank You, Mom” Olympic commercials have already tugged at our heartstrings, and as part of the campaign, P&G announced it will help offset travel costs to the London 2012 Games for the 800+ mothers of U.S. Olympic and Paralympics athletes.


Samsung began its involvement with the Olympics as a local sponsor at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games and has since become a worldwide partner. As the official Wireless Communications Equipment partner, Samsung first helped ensure the Olympic Games ran smoothly in 1998 by providing the Nagano Olympic Organising Committee (NAOC) with 13,000 wireless communication devices.

At the London 2012 Games this summer, Samsung hopes to bring both athletes and spectators closer together “with the use of smarter wireless technologies,” its website says.

Samsung joined the TOP program in 1997.


As a charter partner, Visa became a worldwide TOP member in 1986. It was the first global sponsor to commit to 2012, and will be the exclusive payment services sponsor and the only card accepted at Games venues through 2020.

In London this summer, Visa plans to demonstrate the convenient, fast and safe alternatives to cash by showcasing its new innovations, including contactless and prepaid cards.

“Interest in worldwide Olympic sponsorships is driven primarily by the fact that the Games are one of very few marketing platforms that are relevant to a global audience,” says Jim Andrews, a senior vice president at IEG. “’These partnerships can be worth it for truly global brands who can leverage their rights in hundreds of countries. They obtain a powerful association that can provide a competitive advantage by enhancing their advertising, promotions and other messaging.”

How much they benefit depends on a number of factors, Andrews says, “but there is no doubt that a properly activated worldwide Olympic sponsorship can deliver on multiple objectives, from improved brand strength measures to increased sales.”