2010 Olympics Business News for the Vancouver and Whistler
regions of British Columbia. Plus, Alberta, the rest of Canada, Washington
State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana & California
Canada's Struggling Athletes Need Help
Keep your money in Canada and
get it working for Canadian athletes.
It's easy and relatively
cheap to align with athletes striving for an Olympic win, and raise your
company's visibility at the same time.
Canada is quickly approaching 2010, and contrary to
what Olympics sponsors lead us to believe regarding the level of financial
support they provide to amatuer athletes, the truth is, they don't
do nearly enough.
Many Canadian athletes are in dire straights and struggling.
Here's what Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden told the
CBC in November 2007; "You don't want to make your athletes
starve and keep your athletes starving. Training needs to be treated like
a career. If you want me to go and compete with the world's best, then
I've got to be able to train like the world's best, and I don't think
I should have to live in poverty in order to accomplish my goals."
The truth is, Olympics sponsors like RBC focus primarily on elite athletes
who compete in high visibility popular sports, and the rest are left struggling
in the background. Our government and Olympics organizations are also
primarily interested in only those athletes that might win gold. To them,
a second, third, or fourth place finish doesn't bring enough visibility
to make it worth their while.
If it did, Canadian athletes wouldn't be struggling financially.
Nike, a past Olympics sponsor said,
"You don't win Silver. You lose Gold."
John Furlong, CEO VANOC stated in January of 2006 that if an athlete
doesn't win a medal they are "empty handed."
Apparently Furlong dismisses the official creed of the Games, which is,
"The most important thing is not to win, but to take part, just
as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."
Based on statements from these people, companies, and organizations, and
from their economic centric perspective, anything less than a gold
medal finish is not worth pursuing.
Fortunately for all the amateur athletes out their doing their best, second,
or even last place is worth more economically than elitist Olympics organizations
and their partners know, especially now in this era of social media and
In fairness to VANOC and sponsors like RBC, I fully understand why you
don't have time for anything less than a podium finish. VANOC for example
is so overwhelmed putting out fires and managing overrun costs that the
last thing they have time for are amateur athletes who don't bring global
visibility to their table. And sponsors like RBC, HBC, and Rona have shareholders
to answer to. Shareholders only think of profit, and if you're not number
one, they bail out, sell their shares, and move on.
We get it guys, but it's a new era.
Fortunately, small and midsize business
owners are starting to realize that there is an easy way to create an
alliance with amateur athletes and trade off of each other's resources
and strengths. Some of them, for years, have
cultivated relationships that allow everyone
There is nothing at all wrong with striving for first place, but in these
very challenging and competitive times it pays to be realistic.
Some of Canada's more progressive
amateur athletes in the Olympic race use their websites to boost their
visibility and generate revenue.
And some of Canada's more progressive small companies help amateur athletes
compete at Olympic sport events.
I wrote in this blog way back in early 2006 that amateur athletes need
financial and emotional support, and it's goes double today. It's tough
out there on the road. Thanks to the internet it is now possible for small
and midsize companies to cross-promote with amateur athletes
of all ranks and styles. It is good for them, good for you and good for
Canadian sport to establish relationships with these aspiring athletes
when they need you the most.
One Canadian Olympic athlete in particular has done an incredible job
of working with small businesses. Olympic gold medal ski champion,
Kristi Richards, for years created alliances with The Beanery
Coffee Company, Sumac Ridge Winery, and Penticton Toyota. They helped
her when she needed it the most - before she won an Olympic
Here's an abbreviated quote from Kristi in a press release dated
May 17, 2007 from Youth in Philanthropy; “My community was behind
me 100 per cent. It was awesome to see them come together to raise funds.
They were part of my dream and part of my success.”
Summerland residents and local businesses were “awesome” at creating fundraising
opportunities and supporting me. Equipment, coaching, airfare, dietary
supplements, physiotherapy, sports’ psychologists – the list of expenses
an athlete incurs is almost endless” It costs a lot – especially when
you’re just breaking into the national and international level. If we
recognize potential in local athletes and we want to see them on the podium,
then we as a community need to support them financially.”
Cross-promotion is relatively easy. The good news is that
you can work with amateur athletes by providing them with funds and by
showcasing them on your business website. When you create strategies in
partnership with athletes to raise their visibility, it helps them generate
revenue to train for 2010.
Think of it like helping a local community or Junior A Hockey Team that
has a shot at the Stanley Cup in two years.
It creates a win/win/win for everyone by not only helping a Canadian athlete
reach an Olympic goal, it also raises the visibility of your company,
and it gives Canada a leg up in the overall rankings.
However, don't confuse "struggling amateur athletes who need your
help" with the elite athletes already on the Olympic podium.
When an athlete wins an Olympic gold medal, and they have a bit of business
savvy, they usually no longer need your financial assistance, and that
is completely fair when you keep everything in perspective. Plus, Olympic
organizations and sponsors have medal winning athletes so tied up in stringent
agreements that they couldn't talk to you even if they wanted. Gold medal
Olympians have bigger opportunity working with large corporations. If
you don't align with them early, you miss the boat.
Seek out young struggling athletes who are literally living day to day
on incomes stretched thin. Seek out the young men and women who are trying
to figure out how they are going to afford to buy new equipment or pay
for physiotherapy or travel for the next few months. They can't train
if they don't have the gear or are in constant pain.
For all the noise Olympic organizations and sponsors make, they don't
even come close to sharing enough of their wealth with up-and-coming athletes.
Many athletes drop out due to financial stress.
Olympic sponsors are mainly interested in gold medal winners with endorsement
cachet, or those who are at least hovering on the fringe of success. Big
time sponsors are not usually interested in long shots, and unfortunately,
silver and bronze winners hardly count any more thanks to aggressive sponsors
and campaigns like "Own the Podium," which when you think
about it is more like "Own the Athlete."
Many people think that the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Vancouver
Olympic Organizing Committee, or the International Olympic Committee
provide adequate funds for all young struggling athletes. Well in some
cases they do, but after administration fees not nearly enough financial
support gets channeled to Canadian athletes. In fact, the profit the IOC
makes goes to athletes in countries that are not as well off as Canada.
Which is fine because without those funds we might never have experienced
the Jamaican Bobsled Team or Eddy the Eagle. (Actually,
IOC profit goes to athletes in countries struggling to survive,
but I wanted to leverage a bit of Rick Mercer-styled sarcasm to illustrate
that the money does not stay in the host country -- sorry Jamaica and
England.) Most people do not have a clue that the profit Olympic organizations
will make in Canada won't necessarily stay in Canada. And it is exactly
why young Canadian athletes need your help, and why they need it today
more than ever.
Recently, in January of 2008, Olympic organizations asked small business
owners to contribute $5,000 each to help up-and-coming amateur athletes
in the 2010 Olympics race. Again though, your $5K contribution will also
cover administration costs for a top heavy organization that wastes money
on frivolous expenses.
If you want to make sure your Canadian dollars are spent on Canadian athletes
and not siphoned off to cover "administration fees,"
you have to get directly involved with the athlete. Skip the middleperson.
Don't count on overworked VANOC or the under funded COC, or especially
an organization like the IOC who are guilty of bribery, fraud and corruption
to manage your money responsibly. The IOC is not your friend, nor are
they Vancouver/Whistler's or Canada's friend. At best they should be regarded
as arms-length alliances. Think of them more like a bushy-haired Don King-type
boxing promoter looking out for their interests first. If Olympics organizations
and their sponsors like RBC took care of athletes like they purport, athletes
wouldn't have to beg like binners in Vancouver. Their "Johnny-come-lately"
request for your contribution is vulgar.
Don't let Furlong lead you astray. The IOC and all the large corporate
sponsors like Visa and
NBC who sold billions
in advertising to 4 billion viewers during the Athens Summer Games in
2004 left Greece with a $12 billion dollar debt. With friends like that
who needs enemies? Three months after the Games in Athens Furlong came
back to Vancouver and told a banquet room full of business people (about
800) at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon that Athens was a success.
Success for whom? Each Greek household is now on the hook for almost $78,000
US each. It will take generations to pay off.
The IOC and large corporations take little responsibility when a community
staggers under the cost of hosting an Olympic event, and on top of this
insult, athletes quietly struggle. The last three Olympic events created
huge deficits and did very little for each region regarding foreign capital
investment or to boost tourism. Surely all three of these countries can't
be inept. The reality is that the problem is higher on the food chain.
Unfortunately, there is serious disconnect between Olympic organizations
and the Canadian public. If these organizations spent less time and money
harassing small and midsize businesses, like the Olympia
Restaurant, they would have more money to support athletes. Instead
they hire lawyers to squander our tax dollars and divide the community.
If you want to do the right thing, don't count on the guys from the "Good
Old Boys" club, instead create relationships with athletes on
a one-to-one bases. Don't forget too, to support your neighborhood sports
teams. When was the last time you bought jerseys for the local hockey
or soccer team? Or maybe contributed a little cash to the junior snowboard
or skate stars in training? These young people need your help. Contact
their coaches and trainers. Keep your money in Canada and keep it working
for our aspiring athletes.
We all know VANOC wants to "Own the Podium." Unfortunately
though the Canadian government woefully under funds sport in this country.
They recently decided to give a small stipend to medal winners, which
is great, but think about it. It's after the fact and it does absolutely
nothing to help athletes struggling to get to the podium. Once again they
are awarding the elite. The Olympics business model is outdated and broken.
If you want it done right you have to do it yourself.
Get in the Games & Enhance the SPIRIT!!
Not sure where to start? Email
me . . .
Talk to us before you talk to them ...
- the book
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Own the Podium?
The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the
founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The
most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,
just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius,
which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage
athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their
No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country
is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.
The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively
win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute
anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money
In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs
mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.
The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original
Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they
fall incredibly short.
The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and
Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed &
If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate
sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering
that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should
you be edged out of the race?
Move to the starting line.
Own the Podium?
Own Your Home?
Real journalism consists of
what someone doesn't want published,
all the rest is public relations."