What’s it like to be an Olympic sponsor, and how has sponsorship and marketing of the Olympics evolved? Terrence Burns is here to give some insight into this history.
Terrence worked for Delta Air Lines in the 1980s and 1990s, and managed Delta’s sponsorship of the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. From there he went on to work at the International Olympic Committee’s marketing agency until the IOC brought that function in house.
Now Terrence owns and leads T. Burns Sports Group, which helps companies with the business of sports, including sponsorship, marketing, branding, and bidding for events.
In this first part of our interview with him, we talk about his work with Delta and Atlanta 1996, marketing the Olympics, and the IOC’s TOP Sponsor program.
In our Albertvile history moment, Alison looks the legendary Italian skier Alberto Tomba–better known as Tomba la Bomba–and his achievements at Albertville 1992. Check out his incredible moves on the slopes:
Tomba also had a short-lived acting career starring in the movie “Alex l’ariete.” Check out the trailer:
And here’s a classic scene (maybe–we can’t be sure), if you’d prefer to see him not dubbed:
We also have the results of our poll for next year’s historical Games — what did you choose?
In our visit to TKFLASTAN where we catch up with Team Keep the Flame Alive, we have updates from:
We also have news from Paris 2024: International Paralympic Day looked like a rousing success. Big changes are potentially coming to the artistic swimming competition, but it’ll take IOC approval for them to happen at these Games. Paris 2024 has also contracted with Myrtha Pools for some temporary pools (yes, many of the pools used at the Games are temporary–we learned all about it in Episode 30). And, there could be some accessibility issues when it comes to transportation at these Games, but Paris 2024 is working on it.
Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!
Photo courtesy of Terrence Burns.
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Hello fans of TKFLASTAN, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast four fans of the Olympics into Paralympics. I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co-host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello, how are you?
Alison: Hello. I am up and around and can now take a drug test and will pass.
I am still in the boot and from what I understand, I’m going to have a very interesting.
Jill: Oh! Feet scars.
Alison: I haven’t looked, I haven’t been allowed to look yet under the bandages. But, I’ve been thinking a lot about our various TKFLASTANIS who have had injuries, and I think we might wanna create a scar gallery.
Jill: might not be a bad idea.
Alison: I know. Because, you know, all the athletes we talk to have had significant injuries. I mean, you can’t be an elite level. Without having had significant injuries. So I’d like to see how I compare, cuz it may be the only way I compare to an elite athlete.
Jill: Oh, all right. Well, we are gonna get into the show and I will apologize. It might be the magical hour of construction here. there’s construction going on outside my house and I don’t know if it’ll come through on the airwaves, but hopefully you won’t think it’s vacuuming.
If you do, maybe you’ll just get your vacuum out and vacuum like it’s Beijing 2022. Good thing of nostalgia, . Right. But we have a great interview for you today. We are talking with Terrence Burns. Terrence is the owner, chairman and CEO of T Burns Sports Group, llc, which does sports marketing, sponsorship sales and negotiation, and strategy bidding, advisory service.
And branded communications development In previous roles, he was the Senior Vice President of marketing at Meridian Management, which was the IOCs External Marketing Agency, and he worked at Delta Airlines for a number of years in a variety of roles, one of which was managing Delta’s sponsorship of Atlanta, 1996.
He’s worked on a number of Olympic bids, both successful and unsuccessful, as well as Russia’s bid for the 2018 World Cup. Terrence has also served as the lead brand strategist for golf and wrestling successful bids to return to the Olympics. So, you can imagine with a career that long and storied, he’s got a lot to talk about, so we had a really great conversation with him.
So long, it’s getting split into two parts. Today we are all about sponsorship and we talk about Delta sponsorship of Atlanta 1996, and the evolution of the International Olympic Committee’s top programer. That’s the Olympic Partners Program, so take a listen.
Terrence, thank you so much for joining us. First off, how did you get involved with the Olympic movement to begin with?
Terrence Burns: Like most things in life, pure windsical experience. I never thought I would be in the sports business. Actually, I wanted to be a dentist. Why? I have no idea. I have no skills to be a dentist, i e math skills or science skills, but I do have a minor in biology. I went to Emory University undergrad in Atlanta, Georgia.
Was a biology major and didn’t do too well in the old watershed course, which is organic chemistry, so they sent me to the business school and I got outta school and got a job with Delta. I wanted to work for Delta Air Lines. I wanted to fly for free. That’s what you think about when you’re 22 years old.
Interestingly, I had two guys that were older, a year older than me, and one went to Microsoft and one went to Home Depot and they both tried to get me to come work at either one of those places in like an idiot. I said, No, I wanna fly for free. So I cleaned toilets for Delta Air Lines for two years.
I was a janitor. You had to do it. It started at the bottom. I was the only white kid in the entire department. I think that was the time that Delta was starting to feel the pressure of class action suits for, those lower level jobs were just a certain people. So I was, in many ways I was an experiment.
So anyway, it was the best thing that ever happened to me, frankly, in my life. One of the best things was being a janitor for two years. It wasn’t that we were super privileged, but we were middle class and white in America, 40 years ago, which was a ticket to whatever you wanted. And um, so I was humbled and learned how to work hard learned how to delay gratification, which was new to me.
So I spent 15 years at Delta. And through various jobs on the marketing side, I finally got into marketing after about nine years. In every job I got, they told me it was impossible, to forget it. And somehow I got it. And during that time, I was working [00:05:00] midnight shift in the tool room at Delta Air Lines, checking out screwdrivers to mechanics.
I went back to school and got my mba. International marketings what I really wanted to do. And they put me on the acquisition team for the PanAm European route system. So I went to live in Germany in 1991, came back, they didn’t know what to do with me, so they actually sent me to a Muscow a few months after the end, follow the Soviet Union.
I stayed there, had to fire a guy that we found out was working both for Delta and American Airlines at the same time. So I had to fire him and stay in Russia until I replaced him. Those were very interesting days in Russia. And I went on to spend many, many, many, many, many months and even years in Russia over the years working.
And then I came back to Atlanta after Moscow, and they didn’t know what to do with me. Delta wasn’t really an international focused firm, but that’s what I got my MBA in. I wanted to do, even though we bought Penn Am we were still in neo fives, to be honest with you. And uh, I got a strange job as the administrative assistant to the executive vice president of marketing, which is the most sought after job in the marketing division.
I don’t know how I got it. I was too old, but I got it. And it was a year working for him and all the senior officers, which was illuminating. And they came to me right at the end of that, I think I did it about 10 months and said, we’re going to uh, sponsor the Atlanta Olympics. We don’t have anybody to manage that sponsorship.
Do you wanna do. I said, Sure, I’ll, I’ll do it. Sounds interesting. I like the Olympics. But I was woefully unprepared of what I was kind of undertake. And so I did it and we did well. We didn’t have a lot of resources. We were losing money for the first time in Delta history. So long story short, we were able to manage it and measure it.
And the IOC really liked how I measured the efficacy of that sponsorship. They’d never seen it. So, two gentlemen, Lauren Charon and Chris Welton went to the IOC. Chris was with ACOG and Lauren was with isl. They said, We have a better way of doing marketing than your current agency. Isl. They’re just a sales agency.
We wanna be a marketing agency. And they talked Dick Pound and, and Michael Payne into doing it. And I called me and I, I was still a Delta and I said, Yeah, I’ll do it, but I have to finish these games. So I did. So the day after closing ceremony, I went, I left 15 years of Delta and went, I just made director too, which was sad.
But then , I’d gotten my little 10 handcuffs. They weren’t really gold ones yet. So I went, took a big chance. And the reason I really did it, I fell in love with the Olympic movement. I fell in love with the values. I felt like that I was doing something that was good for the world. And I don’t mean to denigrate airlines and sailing air tickets to London and wherever.
It was a good thing, I’m sure, but I felt I’d finally found something that I could make a difference beyond just being a business. Remember, I didn’t wanna be a businessman. I wanted to be a scientist. So, yeah, I fell in love with it. And that’s the best professional decision I ever made, really was a difficult one.
But the right one was to follow my heart and to go start this company called Meridian. And we were the International Olympic Committees Marketing Agency for eight years, from 96 to um, 2004. And they took that all back in house in 2004. It’s run now by TMO Lume, which is I c tms. I left actually in 2001.
Heady feet, always have itchy feet. I’m a restless soul, and I wanted to go out on my own. And you know, I was in whatever I was 40, 41 or something. And it was, it was kind of then or never. So I went out on my own and immediately picked up Beijing 2008 as a, sponsor, as a first client. So that’s how I got involved in the Olympics.
And I’ve never looked back and I, I get to wake up every single day and do this to, to work on behalf of the Olympics. And I think that’s more than a job. It’s, it’s a calling for me.
Alison: So was Beijing 2008 the first bid you worked on?
Terrence Burns: Mm-hmm. ? Yeah. And it’s interesting because over the last, 10 years or so, , I’ve become known as the bid guy.
But I’m a sponsorship person. Aliance is the client was a client till a couple months ago. you know, When negotiated their deal, I helped them negotiate their deal, helped them set up their sponsorship strategy, their department. And what do these functions do? How do you set KPIs to get a return on your investment?
I, I told you I really didn’t want be a business person, but you have to be, and I know how to do that. Sponsorship, sales, [00:10:00] servicing, that’s what we did for the IOC. And also at the IOC you mentioned earlier, Celebrated Humanity. I, I pushed it, took a year and a half to convince Lausanne, not really Michael, and not really Dick, but the rest of the executive board and the summer ranch that they were a brand.
They just didn’t think they were, they, they didn’t understand that word. And I said, Well, you know, I, I, I have to go into the CMOs of 11 of the largest companies in the world and talk marketing and we don’t have a marketing plan. And they said, We know we don’t, and that’s why you’re here. I said, Okay, well let’s start with the brand.
what are we about? Well, it’s obvious what we’re about, What are we about? And they couldn’t articulate it well. So after about a year and a half, we convinced them to let us hire a, a little firm in San Francisco. It was called Edgar Dunn. And they were kinda like marketing and brand consultants.
They looked like me at that time. Old gray hair. So it was good to have them in the room with me, the kid. And they helped us conduct a, A year global research project. We did qualitative and quantitative research in 11 countries around the world.
The IOC had never done that. We talked to 250 people one on one interviews within the movement. Everybody from athletes to summer ranch to broadcasters to sponsors. And we talked to everybody to try to articulate what are the Olympic. And it had never been done. And, that’s what real businesses do.
So we finished it and it was fun and it was really exciting to do something like that for a brand like the Olympics. And it was sometimes difficult to get, not the consumers, but to get the IOC to separate this thing called the International Olympic Committee from the Olympics. Cuz consumers see them completely different.
Thank goodness. And I don’t mean that as a slam to the IOC. I mean, that’s the way football fans don’t love NFL. Racing fans don’t love Nascar. They love the sport, they love the brand of racing, the brand of American football and, and the Olympics were no different. People could dissociate the two.
So we did all of that work and I presented it to the TOP partners in uh, 99, the beginning of 99. And the day that the day I presented was the day that Modler came down and told the world that Salt Lake City had cheated and, and stole in the games. So the TOP partner group in the room gave me a standing ovation, which they never do to anyone in the, in the IOC.
It’s a very contentious relationship a lot of times. As, as it should be. Cuz I’ve been on both sides. I was a sponsor and then I was on the, property side. So they said, this is all beautiful, we love it, but now we don’t believe it because of Salt Lake. Now we think that the Olympic brand’s been tarnished, so we had to do it again. And we did it again.
And the consumers regard for the Olympics when up higher. They were offended by what had happened. They were appalled that this thing that they loved had been Drug through the mud. And um, they were very angry at the IOC, but not at the Olympics, if you can understand the difference there.
So it was fascinating to do it. It happened at a bad, but also a fortuitous time because we were also right in the middle of renewing all 11 TOP deals. And you can imagine a lot of those business guys, when Salt Lake City first broke, they used it as a hammer to try to get a discount on the renewals and used it exploited a little bit.
You know, some of it was real and a lot of it was just fear. And then we did the research, a really fast track to many version of what we did for a year. We did it in about a quarter. The main parts, mostly the, quantitative and took it back showed John Hancock for example, or Visa or McDonald’s at that time, or Coke or whomever.
No, the brand hasn’t been heard at all. As a matter of fact, it’s, it’s more resilient than we thought. So not only did we renew all those 11 deals, we got all of ’em at about a 10% increase. And looking back on it, and it’s, you can talk to Dick or Michael or whomever, a great deal of a lot of that success was because we, by sheer luck did that, that brand study right before all this broke, right before the Salt Lake City crisis broke.
So we were able to, to show both everybody in the Olympic movement and, and all our stakeholders that the brand was strong and those values for what it was all about. I have this story that I say when I, give an Olympic brand presentation all over the world, sometimes to media, sometimes to students, sometimes to business people, a lot to mid cities over the years about what the brand really stands for.
And the, the first question I say is, [00:15:00] How many people have been to Olympic games and you know, very few people raise their hand. How many people watch it? A lot of people raise their hand. How many people think the Olympics are about sport? Everybody raises their hand. And I said, That was your first wrong answer, cuz they’re not about sport.
Sport just happens to be the vehicle that takes us to these universal values that we all love, that really do quote unquote celebrate humanity. All that research that we did around the world, I bet you, I can’t remember the exact number, but well over 50, probably well over 60% of the respondents said, I don’t even like sport, don’t follow any sports, but I love to watch the Olympic and it just gives you goosebumps.
You know, It really gives you goosebumps. And that’s, to me what it’s all about. So that’s how I got there.
Jill: What is a sponsor looking for in partnering with the Olympics and what is the IOC looking for? I mean, you mentioned there’s a contentious relationship, so where do they butt heads too?
Terrence Burns: Yeah, first and foremost, let’s start with the IOC. The IOC is
it’s an organization that struggles to articulate what it really does and how it does it. And I don’t know why. They’re all wonderful people. The IOC secretariat, the 600 people that work in Lausanne. There was a hundred when I worked there. And Soran wouldn’t let us have more than 100 people. He said, If you have more than one, more than a hundred, you take money away from sport.
Jill: Where did he get that?
Terrence Burns: That wasn’t, that was just in his mind. He wanted, you know, he, he was also a person of his times. Who remembers? The lean years, he remembered they’re not almost being Olympics had Peter Uber off in LA 84 not stepped up to the play. It was almost over and 90% of the money came from the US and 90% of that money came from broadcasters.
So, you know, they had just gotten to where they were trying to diversify their revenue base at risk with the TOP program. And he just felt that a hundred people was more than enough bureaucrats to run the Olympic games. And I don’t think he was wrong. I don’t think the games are six times more complex than they were 20 years ago, but they’re six times more people in Lausanne.
It’s a massive organization. They have beefed up and added skill sets that they needed to do, so that’s a good thing. But back to my earlier point, the IOC doesn’t spend any money really on promoting itself. And you guys have all read the Marketing Matters report that comes out after every games.
If you haven’t, you should. It’s on the ISC website. It tells you where all the money we wrote it, all those years ago, created it and wrote it. And it’s a good little primer on where the money comes from and where it goes. And it’s all real. There’s no fabrications in it, no bulls— in it. And they keep about 10% of that revenue to fund their operations.
And they, they’ve had to rejigger the outflow over the last years, giving a lot more money, not organizing committees than they used to, you know, funding things like the refugee team, giving money to a lot of causes, which they didn’t used to do, which is nice to see. So if you look at the IOC and you say they don’t really have a marketing budget, they don’t have an advertising budget, they don’t have a promotional budget.
They assume that the organizing committees will do that marketing and that promotion of the games. And the games are the physical manifestation of the Olympic brand. So there’s no institutional marketing that the IE does other than the one we started to celebrate Humanity Campaign, which you talk to anybody who’s been around that, that was a phenomenal campaign to do and work on at a high point.
And they’ve tried to emulate it every two or three, four years, you know, and it’s, maybe it’s because the first is always the one you remember the most, but you know, the most recent one is Stronger Together, which was Hillary’s campaign. I tried to tell ’em that if you don’t own something, everybody owns it.
Anyway. So what they’re looking for from their commercial partners, if you have now, 13 or 14 global partners, if you can capture 1% of their global spin, I add all that up that dwarfs what the Olympic movement can afford to spin on itself. So the IOC is looking for three things from their commercial partners.
One is money, which they get. Two is VIK and or services, which they get that offsets, the cost side of Olympic hosting for OCOGs. And third is they expect those firms to go out and promote and market their association with the Olympic brand, the Olympic games. That’s the relationship they want.
So a funding and operational and a promotional relationship is what they want from sponsors. And then we knew that and that’s why we started that brand work all those years ago. Cuz sponsors didn’t have anything. The only data the IOC had was 99% of the people in the world [00:20:00] know what the Olympics are, the rings.
And 99% of those people. Love it. There we go. Can we have 50 million? That was a TOP deal back then. Now they’re 200 and I’m dealing with the CMO of Visa. And she says, Is that all there is? That’s all there is. Well, that’s not enough. I know we’re working on it. So we got to the point where we really had a portfolio of marketing data and research and valuable tools that we could give the sponsors so that frankly Visa campaign wouldn’t look like McDonald’s campaign and McDonald’s campaign wouldn’t look like UPS’s, campaign cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Because to me, most Olympic advertising still with sponsors is pretty homogenous. It’s wallpaper. I think they’ve lost that brand focus over the years, in my humble opinion. And you remember this brand, when you sell the same set of rices to a company that makes credit cards to a company that makes soft drinks, it’s not a one size fits all.
Visa’s all about trust and tradition. They have your money. Coke is about fun and refreshment. Those are two completely different brand constructs that are trying to use the same IP to sell. So we were able to articulate that the Olympic brand has various entry points for consumers Permission sets quite wide.
But if you just put the rings on your card or your hamburger or your can of Coke or whatever it is, you sell your tires, your cars won’t resonate with consumers. And I always tell this to bid cities, you don’t change people’s minds with facts and figures. You just don’t. In life, in bidding, in marketing, you change people’s minds with stories.
And we showed them that consumers around the world told us we will support Olympic sponsors. We will buy more of their products. But only if they tell us why they’re a sponsor. Only if they tell us and show us how they support the Olympic movement. Don’t just put the rings on there. Don’t just show us a slow motion video of an athlete with this operatic music.
And the same tired cliche advertising. You kind of see every Olympic games. The reason some great advertising stands out, like p and g’s thing about the moms. That shouldn’t be rare. That shouldn’t. It’s a great piece and I like it. I really do like it. They tapped right into accelerate humanity, but why are the only one, They are the only ones out of, 10 or 11 companies that have figured that out.
It’s not that hard. So, that’s the value proposition in the icu. So what sponsors want? Well, the, the TOP program was created to be a one stop shop for companies who were interested in a global relationship with the International Olympic Committee. Up until that time, as you know, you, you had to go to each individual National Olympic Committee and cut your own deal which made it very expensive, very hard.
And frankly it was risky. You know, There was always one country that would say, Nah, we’d rather have Pepsi. Nah, we’d rather have American Express or whatever. And success has many fathers as we know. And the stories of who and how created the TOP program are Legion and, and listen, I worked there.
I worked and managed it. I don’t know who created it. I know the various people who claim they created it and they probably all had a role in it at some point. There’s no. From ISL to Rob pr, Mark to Michael to, I mean, go down the list. They were all there at its birth and they all had a role in helping launch it.
And it doesn’t really matter who created it. It was revolutionary for its time. It’s probably still the best way to do it. I just believe there’s gotta be a better way all these years later. So first and foremost, the sponsors wanted and needed a way to, to do that.
And when I was there, they still had to sign four deals. They did an IOC deal, They had to do a U S O P C deal separate because at that time, the TOP program was so heavily weighted toward US companies that the US O c, which is what it was called until a couple years ago, could demand its own contract with these companies, was slightly different rights in the US territory.
And then they had to do a deal with the winner OCO in the summer O Cog. Well, that’s been transformed and streamlined now to where they only have to sign two deals. The IOC now represents itself, also the ipc. This is all new. And the two OCO deals, the winner in the summer O cog are all in one contract, but they still have to do a separate deal with the US O P C to this day to be a TOP partner.
That’s what they want. What else do they want? They’re constantly ragging on the IOC to be more relevant, not just every two years or every four years.
I understand that. I think it’s folly. We had research that showed that people loved the Olympics for a lot of reasons. And guess [00:25:00] what one of those reasons was? Because it’s rare. Yeah, because it’s rare. , they don’t support foe Olympic games, left-handed people from Mars, Olympic Games, Olympic games held underwater.
They, they love the Olympics. They love the majesty of something that’s rare. So I think you can do things to make the Olympic brand more relevant. I think when you start talking about 24 7, 365, you start to lose the thread. I think the purpose and the objective of the Olympic channel was correct.
In other words, to have a media source and or set of sources and outlets that allowed you, if you wanted to, to participate, watch and buy the Olympic brand whenever and however you wanted to do it. I think their original content is the way to do it. I don’t think replaying the games from Sarava makes any sense.
Nobody’s gonna watch it. But there’s a lot of original content that I think the Olympic Channel is produced. It’s excellent. Their problem is distribution. Very few people still access the Olympic channel. if they did a deal with Netflix, it might be different, or Hulu or whomever.
That’s a whole nother discussion. So sponsors constantly want that. They wanna ensure that the games are what they think they’re buying. I eat clean and honorable, and that’s why any, you know, the IOC sells perfection, impurity, and any slight deviation from that ripples. The ripples are mag magnified.
NFL doesn’t sell purity. NBA doesn’t sell purity. You know, Their athletes can behave however they want, sadly, and there’s not a lot of economic repercussions. The Olympics, they’re standing on a tip of a pinhead and. Any deviation from those espoused ideals has, I think, a, an overreaction from its commercial partners.
And I understand that. I understand that. I used to be one. I always tell people that the Olympics are an ideal, but they’re managed by us humans. We’re not ideal. And I think as he struggles sometimes to articulate what that really means, and sometimes they can sound a little tone deaf. I’d love to see a little more, a little less hubris and a little more humility goes a long way.
Even in your, your life, our personal lives, it’s the same for brands, same for the IOC, same for the Olympics. So that’s what they want. The bit city processes a role of guys for them, I will tell you 100%, a thousand percent, they have zero influence and control over where the games go.
Zero, less than zero. If they try, even, even try to influence it, it would guarantee the opposite . That’s something that the IOC is wisely protected to maintain. Political neutrality. Economic neutrality. I think there’s another lens that they can use to look through, through it. Forbid city boarding bid cities the future.
And we can talk about that when we get to bidding. So they want that. They want the exclusivity. They wanna be in the club. It’s a very small club of global brands that can say they are global TOP partners. And when you start extending as, for a long, long time, Coke had a closet. It’s contracted, It couldn’t go beyond 12.
I think 12 was the number that went away. Obviously now there’s 13 or 14, I guess depending on how you count, So the more brands you put in there, two things happen. The less exclusive IT club, it becomes for TOP partners, although it’s still pretty exclusive, 14 brands out of the thousands of global brands that there are.
But every time the ISD takes a product category and makes a top product category out of it, it takes a huge revenue opportunity away from the organizing committees. Here’s an example. I was a CMO of LA 2028 for two years, and we, we put together a budget, we put together an operating budget, which included marketing revenue.
How much were we going to raise and how were those categories defined? Well, at the time we did that when we were bidding, insurance it wasn’t a TOP partner category. Well, after we won and after I left the IRC announced, ION says a new TOP partner, What does that mean for Los Angeles? Means they lost about 150 million in potential revenue out of their games budget. Gone.
Now they’ll get a percentage of that revenue from aliance come through the IOC, the percentage they receive from TOP partners. But a very small percentage compared to it’s, it’s not
Jill: gonna be 150 million.
Terrence Burns: No, it’s gonna be a very small percentage of it. So that’s a reality and that’s another reason the ISD wisely tries to resist in taking on too many TOP partners cuz they, they’re gonna pay for it one way or another.
They’re gonna somehow increase the revenue to the organizer committee if they take too many categories. So, so that’s that. I think that’s that cover the sponsors. The [00:30:00] sponsors are forever chasing the elusive unicorn, which is measurement efficacy of, of a sponsorship.
And the efficacy of your sponsors, how do you measure it? And I always, you know, I’m not just a bid person. I, I work with sponsors and my first thing is, if you cannot measure it, do not do it. And if you, if you can’t define success at the very beginning of your sponsorship planning, you shouldn’t do it.
You know why? Because you have a board of directors and senior officers who seven years from now, four years from now, five years from now, they’ll be turnover. They won’t remember who you are. You may not be there, but I guarantee you, if you just say, these are the three things that we need to achieve, a revenue objective and internal objective with employees and a brand objective, whatever you decide those are in those three pillars, you’re gonna be fine.
But these sponsors that try to do 50 things because they can, cuz they have the rights to, they get lost and they don’t focus on what matters most. So what I tell new sponsors is, let me see your overall business strategy first. What are you trying to achieve as a company? And where are you trying to achieve it?
Then let’s see if these Olympic rights can help you do that. But so many sponsors, new sponsors, you get Olympic drunk. You just get crazy. Oh, Olympic sponsor. I can do, look at all this stuff. We can put the rings on our shirts. Yay. Well, does it make sense to change your whole business strategy to fit what you just bought to be an Olympic sponsor?
My answer is, Does it make sense to look to, to keep going? If you’re selling cars or Coke or whatever it is, here’s how many we’re trying to sell. Here’s where we’re trying to sell it. Here’s how we want consumers to feel about our brand and here’s how we want our employees to feel about working for our company.
If you focus on those three things, you’re gonna have a great experience and it’s gonna force you to cut, cut, cut, cut, cut your focus down to just the things that really matter. Cuz the last thing you want is five years from now you’ve achieved two or three things, or whatever it is, and somebody on the board.
And they’re always just somebody on the board who has not been paying attention, who says, Well, why didn’t we put our logo on the moon? I thought we were, should have put our logo on the moon. I mean, what a voice to money this has been. It always happens. There’s always a misalignment of expectations between senior management and, and the people doing a sponsorship.
So that’s how I think, and that’s one of the real reasons that I lucked into all this is at Delta I had to do it. I had to measure and show our board why we were paying at that time, 30 million for a sponsorship in a city where we already had 90% of the market share. To them, it made no sense.
Jill: And how, how did you sell that then?
Terrence Burns: We knew that I needed to generate, I had to pay for the sponsorship and the marketing of it in incremental revenue. So we had to come up with a program where, back in those days, most of the revenues of airlines came from travel agents and brokers.
And it wasn’t direct to consumer like it is now. Overwhelmingly, 90% of the revenues for airlines back in the nineties, in past were through the distribution channel. That was a third party. So we incentivized, we looked at, for example, we’d take a hundred travel agencies in Atlanta and we would say, Okay, they’re already selling a lot of economy class tickets to Frankfurt and London and Paris.
We want business class, so let’s take six months. Six months. Look at how much revenue they produced here in business class to those three cities. Let’s set a stretch goal over here. And if they win, if they hit that number, then I’m gonna give them 30 packages to go to the Olympic Games as Delta’s guest. These are packages you can’t buy.
Best seats, best hotels, best tickets, food, transportation, hanging out with athletes. I’m gonna give that travel agency 30 of those packages, or 10 or whatever it is. Then they can take those packages and go to their corporate clients and say, If you’ll shift 15 business class seats to us during this period, you and your CEO can come.
So it’s, it’s incentivizing travel. Is it sustained? No. Is it a blip? Yes. But does that blip pay for the 30 million plus a percentage over, let’s say, say it’s double say it’s 60 a one to one ratio is pretty fair. So that’s how you do that. The other one was, we wanted to have, we were so new in branding back in those days, you can use awareness with branding, but we wanted, I think we set a goal, 65% of the top level frequent flyers in North America.
Cuz we only had rights in North America. We had ’em in other countries, but it doesn’t matter in North America as an ACOG sponsor cuz we had to split that category. The US O c kept United. Atlanta picked Delta. So that was a very convoluted, difficult, So I, I decided to bury United that, that was my goal.
More than getting a return for [00:35:00] Delta. I wanted to bury United cuz I didn’t think it was fair. And we did bury them. So you had a br had a brand goal and that was awareness with frequent flyers went well. We scored and you do that by, you know, mailings and we didn’t have email back then.
We dressed all the airports, all the city ticket offices. We made announcements on the airplanes and all the frequent flyer distribution mailings. We told ’em, blah, blah, blah, blah, your official airline, here’s a commemorative stamp or whatever. I have no idea. We did all kinds of stuff. And then we did something pretty novel for, almost 30 years ago.
We chose our employees as the third pillar. The thinking there is, and it still holds true, I think. Service brands like airlines or banks your employees, your frontline employees are, are your brand ambassadors. Cause if you think about it, you guys fly. It doesn’t matter what Delta’s current tagline is or their advertising on television, which you don’t see anymore.
Corporate marketing doesn’t much matter when you can go into an airport and a ticket agent destroy your day or a gate agent destroy your day, or a flight attendant destroy your travel experience. Those three people are the brand. It’s not, we love to fly and it shows and let’s run a, a spot on NBC. So we said, let’s see if we can use our rights and benefits as the Olympic sponsor to motivate our employee.
Improve their performance, which could be anything from measuring their efficacy on their quarterly performance reports to mundane things like attendance. You know, If you don’t, miss any work, you win something. And we had several divisions. You had inflight, you had tech ops, you had administration, you had four or five divisions, and we were smart enough, or in the south we say even a blind pig binds an acorn.
So I was the blind pig. So we, we went to each of these heads of these divisions, cuz I worked with them when I worked for this head of marketing. And I said, here, I, I have x amount of resources including, four or five trips to the games. But beyond the four or five trips to the games for you in, let’s just say technical operations, which is all the mechanics that you see around the world.
I have jackets, I have shirts, I have memorabilia, I have all kinds of stuff. Tchotchkes. And let’s design a program just for tech ops that incentive–. What’s your biggest challenge with your employees in tech ops? And typically they would say attendance. It wasn’t, you know, mechanics, when they get to work, they don’t screw around on your airplane.
It’s gonna be perfect. So it wasn’t that, you know, it was like morale equals attendance, you know, because it’s a lot of shift work. And I did three shifts for not the first nine years at Delta Air Lines. I, I worked three shifts constantly. Some years, only midnight shift. And there were many times that I just didn’t feel like going in.
And I would call in sick. I just couldn’t do it, One, I was tired. Two, I had a baby. Three, I was in school in the evenings and trying to sleep in the day. So, Using a variety of, incentives we created programs for each of the, business units in Delta to incentivize it. Like for in flight, the easiest thing to do was create a bunch of cards and flight attendants handed those cards out the beginning of every flight and said, If anybody you think does an exceptional job, please fill this out and give it to the pilot or the head flight attendant when you get off the airplane.
It nominates us to win a trip to the Olympic Games. Then we had a hundred torch slots. We gave them all to our employees. That if I had it to do over, I would probably spend three times the amount of resources on our employees. Then we did, but we did and the only way we could measure that. Now it’s much more sophisticated, obviously, with technology and just knowing more. The only way we really measured it was after the fact that we did a survey.
How did you feel about Delta being analytics sponsor? Did you, were you proud? There were four or five innocuous questions as best as we could, and it was just off the charts. You know, People saying, I’ve never been more proud to be a Delta employee in my life. It was the greatest experience, especially the people that won something or got to go to the Olympic games with, you know, our best customers.
You have a, a ramp rat from New Orleans sitting next to the chairman of Swiss Air watching Michael Johnson win a gold medal. I mean, that’s what it was all about. So that’s, that’s how you do it. Really, really focus on what your company needs, and then apply the Olympic resources to it as opposed to the other way.
There’s a science to it. And it is not about just awareness. It certainly isn’t about visibility in the Olympics cuz it’s clean venues. I hate to say it and I don’t mean it negatively, in many ways the FIFA deals are easier to sell because of the builtin media value.
There’s no built in media value in, in Olympic deals. Now LA is selling their top tier deals. It’s a $400 million deal. It was, it’s less now. With 200 million of that going to NBC. So for the first time, ostensibly you’ve got Olympic deals with embedded media value. They’re actually two different [00:40:00] deals cuz LA 2028 is a nonprofit and NBC is definitely not a nonprofit.
So you’re really signing two deals, but for the most part, you’re buying air. And here’s how I explained it to partners, That new sponsors, Has anybody ever been to a bar where you have to pay a cover charge? Everybody raises their hand. Yes. Okay. That’s what you just paid to be a sponsor. You paid the cover charge to get into the bar.
You want a drink, it’s gonna cost you some more money. Want something to eat? It’s gonna cost you some more money. You wanna dance with somebody, it’s probably gonna cost you some more money. You wanna take somebody home, it’s gonna cost you a lot more money. that’s Olympic sponsorship. And it’s straight up forward.
It’s nobody’s lying to you. That’s just how it works. You have bought a licensing agreement with no assets attached. You don’t get rooms, you don’t get tickets, you don’t get athletes, you don’t get media. You gotta buy all of that incrementally on top of just being a sponsor. You can be a sponsor and not have any hotel rooms.
It’s up to you. But if you want ’em, here they are, the best there are. Here’s the. You buy it through the O car. That’s changing too, by the way.
Jill: So why do sponsors still sign up if they’re buying air?
Terrence Burns: Because it’s the Olympics. Olympic sponsorship is not for every brand.
It is not. It’s expensive. It’s global. It’s a huge commitment of resources, time, focus. You have to galvanize your entire global network around an event that’s gonna last for 17 days. And you build about a year out from that. You start the process and about six months from that, you really turn it on. You go operational and about three months out, all fires are running.
So not many companies can actually afford or have the ability to do it, but the ones who can understand that they’re investing in, I believe the last best global example of why humans, why we should be optimistic about the world. I mean, it is, it’s not a sporting event. It’s an event to celebrate humans and what we are and what we can be.
And it’s beautiful. It’s almost religious. It has a liturgy to it, a theology to it. It is the opposite of buying an NFL deal or a Formula One deal. And those are all great brands and great sports and great leagues, and you buy them for specific things. But if you buy an NFL deal or an MLB deal or Formula one deal, you, you are selling to and associating with still a very discreet part of consumers. Consumers who like football or baseball or auto racing. That’s not everybody. You buy an Olympics deal, you’re getting everybody. I mean everybody. And we’ve got the data, prove it and to show it. And the other thing I would say is three and a half billion people watch it. So why would you not be there if you can afford to be there? That’s the business part of me. Somebody the other day asked me about his sport, Why, why should I be in the Olympics? Okay, well, for your sport, probably 40 people on the planet watch it. If you’re in the Olympics, 3 billion people will watch it.
That’s my pitch.
Alison: Do you mentioned P and G being particularly good? They do the moms and then they have the Team USA house for the family, so they seem to have a very consistent message. Yeah. Anybody else you wanna say does particularly well?
Terrence Burns: Visa used to do it very, very well uh, when they were brutally focused on to coming to the Olympics, bring your Visa card cuz it’s all they take. I never had a problem with that actually. That’s what they paid for. They paid for that exclusivity. They wrapped all that around Olympic imagery, et cetera.
It wasn’t particularly emotional, but for them it was a very, very powerful message because at the very beginning of their deal, you may or may not remember it’s a huge battle with American Express who, who actually ambushed the crap out of them. we, even in Nono, we’d have to go through all the streets into all the.
Little restaurants, making sure that American Express hat didn’t have anything in the window with the rings on it, cuz they would do it. And to be fair to American Express and Visa, the Olympic sponsorship back in those days was still fairly new. Uh, I think the IOC and the Olympic bodies have done a tremendous job, believe me they have, and how hard it is in the last 20 years or so in protecting sponsors rights and going to back for them.
We’ve had organizing committees. My favorite Olympic games ever, ever was Sydney in 2000. But Sydney cost us UPS. The Sydney Organizing Committee did a deal with TNT to deliver the tickets completely contravening UPS’s rights. There were a lot of other things that led into it, but that was a straw that broke the camel’s back.
And I think the IOC, kind of realized we just lost a TOP partner and um, it could have been avoided. So protecting those rights is back to what is sponsors want? Forgive me, I forgot the most important thing. They want their rights protected. They paid a lot of money, they bought exclusivity.
I have an evolved point of view on [00:45:00] exclusivity that I didn’t have when I sold exclusivity, but that’s what they bought. And sadly, sponsors often confuse clever marketing with ambush marketing. And our friends at McDonald’s were sometimes the worst at conflating the two just because Wendy’s would run an ad during the Olympics with Dave and Kristi Yamaguchi That wasn’t ambush marketing. They didn’t say the word Olympics. They didn’t use the Olympic rings.
They were just smart enough to pick up the inventory that McDonald’s said, We, we don’t wanna buy it all because it’s in NBA final. So we’re only gonna buy half of our category on NBC. What do you think’s gonna happen? NBC’s gonna sell it. They, they can sell it to whoever they want. They have to ensure, and the Olympic parties have to ensure that whoever they sell it to, even if it’s a competitor and they can, can’t use Olympic IP.
That’s not ambush marketing. That’s just not ambush marketing. Even what Nike did in 96 when they ran the campaign all over Atlanta that said, You don’t win silver, you lose gold. They didn’t say Olympics, they didn’t say games, they didn’t use the rings. We did a Celebrate Humanity piece that went right after their throats on that, by the way. It was fantastic.
So the confusion between what is real ambush marketing and what is, you kind of did it yourself because you’re, you didn’t market very well, which is true. And I’ve got into heated matches with clients and potential clients. Why don’t I just say I disagree. That happened to you because you let it happen.
You didn’t own what you bought. You didn’t go out and own the marketplace. You didn’t flood the zone. You let your competitor walk through a crevice in your armor and now it’s, it’s my problem. No, it’s not sures. They didn’t break the law. If they break the law, we’ll go after ’em.
Jill: I’m curious because you mentioned a little bit about –I’m sorry I forget the, the term, but when somebody signs up to sponsor FIFA world ly exclusivity? No, not exclusivity. The, you see all the branding everywhere. . Yeah. Yeah. So, Embedded media rights. Yeah, embedded media rights.
So the Paralympics used to have that. But now that the Paralympics has, a more defined contract with the IOC, you no longer see all the advertising in stadiums that you used to, like, during P Chang they had it, but during Beijing, no more advertising. Is that helpful for the Paralympic movement?
Does it hurt their sponsorship or,
Terrence Burns: I don’t think it helps it, and I think that’s a, the Paralympic deal. The Paralympic product is also I think a product. Now, I’ll say this as nicely as I can, and appropriately, it shouldn’t be foisted upon a brand. It’s a product that’s quite unique, very emotional, very powerful.
In many ways it’s more powerful than the Olympic brand, I think personally, when you get down on the personal level. But it’s, it’s also, and I’ll give you a great example. When I was at Delta, the Paralympics came to pitch me because you didn’t get both rights in those days. You had to buy it separate.
We knew that the Paralympics were going to happen in Atlanta. We didn’t really wanna sponsor the Paralympics, but we wanted to support them. And they came into my office to pitch the Paralympic sponsorship, and he said, We only have one slide. And he put it up and it said, What’s your excuse?
Which pissed me off.
I mean, are you trying to sell me something as a professional or is this some kind of gotcha. We’re talking about money here, people’s lives, companies stock shareholders. I can’t do something because I feel sorry for you. I can’t do something because you shamed me into it. They didn’t do any research on my business.
They didn’t know what I needed. They had no clue. And this is gonna sound crass and it’s not meant to be, but if Delta Air Lines was the official airline and gave discounts to every single person in a wheelchair, how would that impact? Maybe it wouldn’t, but how would that impact our on time departure numbers?
We don’t even have enough room in the airplanes to do that. Or isn’t there not staffed to do that? Should they be? That’s a whole nother discussion. But the point of the Paralympics have progressed from that mindset of, you owe us something because of this to how here’s a real marketing opportunity for the right brand.
And maybe it’s not marketing, maybe it’s csr, maybe it’s your foundation, but there’s a way to partner with the Paralympic movement that helps us. It can help you. It may help you sell more cans of Coke, maybe not, but it certainly can probably help your image and people’s perception of you as a company that cares about people and the world.
That’s the way to sell it. Then here’s what we can bring to bear. But if you just suddenly [00:50:00] say you’re a TOP sponsor Olympics, so now you’ve got the Paralympics too, I think you’re gonna get a certain percentage of TOP partners are gonna say, Great, let’s go to work and put a program together and you’re gonna get a certain percentage of the sponsor to say, Okay, what’s the minimum we can do here?
Cuz it’s, it’s not a priority for our brand, our product, or. That’s just businesses. Business isn’t philanthropy, it just isn’t. So to answer your question, I’m sure it has impacted it. One has to assume, and I don’t know the financial specifics, One has to assume that this was a good deal for the IPC, that at the end of the day they got more money than they gave up by being included in the single sale of both rights.
You know, We used to try to say it’s really a, it’s a month long sporting festival with two pieces. The Olympic Games, I’ve always thought they ought to let the Paralympics go first and almost be a test event for a lot of things. And I remember in Sydney, in a lot of games, they, I, I vividly remember in Sydney, they had some Paralympic events during the athletics competition and the fact that you have the Olympic audience there and they’re seeing the Paralympics take place, you have a full stadium of 80,000 people instead of a full, an 80,000 stadium with 40,000 in it during the Paralympic games.
There’s gotta be a better way to merge the two and let them the best of each, help each other. I don’t know what that is. I don’t think anybody’s figure that out or maybe a lot of people smarter than me are trying. But I think having these two separate things makes it obviously an a event.
The B event, maybe you put the Paralympics first, they get more attention, gives a dry run for the, the Olympics on transport, housing, all that good stuff. Of course they have to, there’s a lot that you have to change functionally in the venues and the Olympic Village, etc. Between both of those events, accessibility issues, et cetera.
So it’s not without cost, but that cost is gonna be there either after the games or before the game. So, That’s my point of view on that.
Jill: How do you think Toyota has done in their sponsorship with the Paralympics? Cuz they have accessible cars they could be selling and that’s their Yeah.
That seems to be what they’re leveraging that partnership to do.
Terrence Burns: Yeah. Toyota has done a brilliant job, I believe, and I hope they stick around. They’re aggressive marketers, they’re global, They have a different perspective. They cleverly morphed their product category away from automobiles into something called mobility, which is really smart.
It’s not just a machine with four wheels. I think they’ve done a great job and I think that’s a brand where the Paralympics makes a hell of a lot of sense as a tool to reach people in that community, but also to demonstrate to people who aren’t in that community that Toyota has a heart and a soul and a conscience, and it’s doing what’s best for the world.
Alison: And we on the show are very big fans of Mike and Maya from the Toyota Commercial .
Jill: It was our thing last year during Tokyo. Well, a little obsess with this.
Terrence Burns: Well, and rightly so, smart people are doing these things generally and you can kind of see when you watch the Olympics, frankly, from a clinical eye, who has their A team on the creative and who has their B and C teams on the creative and who picked an agency, who gets it, and who picked an agency who, although probably very inspired and honestly excited, Tend to be cliched, and it’s been done before.
It’s just been done before. And sadly, sometimes it gets cynical. I do a little jaded when I’m working with brand new creative agencies and the breathless kid comes in with a, a reel of a bunch of Olympic footage, with Imagine by John Lennon. I, you know, even though
Alison: Oh, don’t get Jill started on, Imagine.
Terrence Burns: I mean, I’ve only seen it 1 trillion times. How about something different and unique? So anyway, that sets sponsorship and it’s um, last thing I’ll say about sponsorship, and I’m an outlier on this and I know it, and I’m sorry and I could be completely wrong, but I do think that the never ending march over 30 years, roughly the TOP program toward thinner and thinner and thinner descriptions of product category.
So we can have more and more and more and more sponsors, I think
as a point of diminishing returns. One, you can have so many sponsors that it’s not special anymore. You become wallpaper. We’re almost there. If you add in the TOP partners and then the organizing committee sponsors, you’re talking 70 brands sometimes or more, and they’re all kind of saying the same thing unless they’re really smart, know how to break through.
The other thing is, as putting my IOC hat on, my marketing hat on, I spent more time telling people no than yes. And how wrong is that? I spent more time saying, Eh, can’t, I’m sorry, that’s not in your product category, eh? I’m sorry that that’s, You can’t do that. You can’t say that You can’t, you can’t talk about, in [00:55:00] the old days, can’t talk.
The camera functionality on your mobile phone because, you know, we got Kodak over here and they sell cameras and you can’t talk about, there’s so many, you get in so many con really minute conversations that the sponsors aperture for activation goes from here to here when you should be encouraging them to do as much as they possibly can with those Olympic rights.
So like when I was at la, we spent a little bit of time thinking about, okay, we live in this construct of Olympic marketing. I know how the rights flow and where they come from. I could tell you how they go from the ISC to the n c to you, how those work, what mark is at what territory. I know all of that, Where the revenue goes.
What if we could figure out a way to create a relationship with a third party that’s not a sponsorship, but it brings value to both of us. But it’s not a transaction, it’s not defined by, I’ll give you a dollar and you can do this. That’s a sponsorship agreement. And the only idea I came up with was because it’s la it’s California, the tech industry there.
There’s so many things that are happening there that are not technically in a product category. And now, you know, we have, there’s a fair amount of tech sponsors, TOP partners, excuse me. And all of their contracts are rubbing up against each other. It’s like, no, no, they can’t, You can’t even reference a drone because Intel has that and can’t show a drone in a, a sponsor video unless it’s branded Intel.
If it’s not branded Intel, you gotta tape over the what? It’s, it gets down to that. It really gets down to even us as IOC marketing people standing on the top of the downhill at minus five degrees with a 20 year old kid, most important time in their life. And a branding on their skis is too big. And I’ve gotta roll a duct tape and I have to tape it up so you’re in this negative approach to it.
So I said, you know, Casey, you know Elon or you know his brother, Call him and say, Elon, I’m just making this up. We’ve created a technology commission in the LA 28 organizing committee and we want you to be the chair of that. Now that doesn’t mean anything. You don’t have to do anything. We’ll have a meeting once a year.
We can create an agenda, but I can show you on the website. That’s a big deal. I’ll get a press release out of that. And on your SpaceX rockets that go up into the air, what if we had on LA 2028 logo on it? We won’t charge you for it. It’s not exclusive. It’s just you’re promoting the games on our behalf and we appreciate it.
You don’t need our money. We don’t need your money. That’s what I’m trying to say, that maybe there’s a step beyond the constraints of
product category descriptive marketing. Cuz if it were, if you could do it all over a blank piece of paper, why wouldn’t you wanna have Apple and Samsung as partners of the Olympic movement? But now there can only be one. I would say both of your brands are sponsors. Go out and do what you want.
Only thing we’re gonna control is, are you using the rings and Olympic imagery in a correct manner? Cuz we have got guidelines. Are you paying the right royalties to whomever and wherever beyond that have had it. But this concept of exclusivity, I understand it, I sold it, I fight for it for clients, but I, I’m not sure that it has an outlived it’s usefulness because of, then I might be wrong.
But I think, there’s more opportunity to be gained if you did it a different way and let brands really go to market. Samsung can only sell these tablets, well that’s an iPhone, but galaxies, tablets and a few little things. They can’t talk about their ship building. They can’t talk about watching scenes and refrigerators.
They make, they can’t talk about, they make satellites. They can’t talk about any of that cuz that’s not in their product category. But if they could talk about all of that, you just increase their propensity to promote their Olympic sponsorship by factor of 10, 15, 20. I have no idea. And maybe you could charge a more money, I don’t know.
But these constraints are real and I’ve just noticed representing sponsors and also as my IOC hat when the answer more often is no. Well, what kind of marketing relationship is that? We’re missing the forest with the trees a little bit. But again, I, I’m an outlier on that and everybody will tell you that the entire sports marketing industry’s explosion and success in revenues over the last 30 years is from TV money and sponsorship sold on product category constraints.
And they’re not wrong. But I’m thinking about the next 30 years.
Jill: Interesting. Cuz We could go off on that bank cuz nobody’s watching TV anymore. And we saw in Beijing what you meant about that. Like the taxi system in Beijing, they had to mark over any cars that weren’t Toyotas. It was just, it was interesting, but that’s not a fun job to do
Terrence Burns: and it’s a complete waste of of time and energy.
Alison: Um, It snacks in our hotels taped over. I mean, they went,
Terrence Burns: So my, I know I did it. I used to have to do it. And um, the energy and [01:00:00] time and resources that takes versus doing something proactive to help Toyota or Panasonic it’s, it’s, your priorities are wrong, right? Prior
Jill: are wrong. Yeah. You focus on what, what is this?
Or, or our TV was a Phillips and that wasn’t a sponsor, so they covered over the tv, but every time you turned the TV on it still said Phillips.
Terrence Burns: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. No, I believe me, , I’ve been on both sides of that battle and I get it and I understand the validity of it and I honor the Olympic parties for trying to protect those rights.
I really do. But I think it’s an education thing. And I think that some sports property somewhere, and it’ll be a new one. It’ll be an exciting one. It will be a nontraditional one will break that chain. And over time it, it may become the new normal. That’s gonna take a long time. I mean, how do you say, how you can look at me and say, ICS generating 7 billion every four years.
Terence, tell me what we’re doing wrong. That’s a valid question. And I can say something glib like, well, it could be 14, but I don’t know that, I don’t, I admit it.
Thank you so much, Terrence. You can follow firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also got a blog, terrence burns blog.com, which is, he’s got some really in-depth stories behind different bids that he does. So they are definitely worth a read and he can follow him on Twitter at t Burns Sports, we will have links to all of those in these show notes.
Uh, That sound means it’s time for our history segment. All year long, we’ve been looking at Albertville 1992, as it is the 30th anniversary of those Winter Olympics. Alison, it is your turn for a story. What do you have?
Alison: La Bomba.
It’s time to talk. Alberto Tomba. We’ve been previewing this for several episodes where we said, Oh, we’ll talk about Albert Ro Tomba.
Well, here we go. He’s our friend today. So Alberto Tomba was a skier. He was born in Bologna. So unlike most Italian skiers who come from the south TE region, so he came from a pretty wealthy. Who took him skiing and by the time he was 19, he was on the national team. So he was absolutely a prodigy.
And in 1988 at the Calgary Olympics, at only age 21, he won a gold medal in the slalom and the giant slalom and earned the fabulous nickname La Bomba. Partially because he was very big and tall for his skier, partially because he was kind of hands. And slightly popular with the ladies,
Jill: kind of,
Alison: He also had a huge personality and a very aggressive skiing style, especially compared to some of the other big names at the time. Your favorite. Perming GaN Love Mark Gelli. And one a mild favorites. A name I probably have never said on the podcast. Ingamar Denmark. Ooh, remember him? Vaguely. Yes. So I cannot undersell how much of a rock star.
Alberto Tomba was not just in Italy, but across Europe and with skiing fans all around the world. So we come into Albertville. He is a huge favorite. He’s the dominant technical skier in the world, and we knew he was gonna do wild things, usually involving women in alcohol. So in the competition, however, in the slalom, he placed sixth on the first.
Very, very disappointing. But he finished first in the second run and that got him the silver medal. So he has this huge comeback. But here comes the giant slalom. He conquers the mountain, he repeats, has gold medalist and he is the only skier to win back to back gold medals in the men’s giant la.
Jill: Wow, I didn’t know that record still held.
Alison: That record still holds, and when you think about skiers, they tend to last more than one Olympics. We see them come back and especially in, slalom giant Islam, which favors technical over speed, so they can last longer. But no, he’s the only back to back gold medalist for men’s giant slalom. Now, everybody thought he was gonna go to Hollywood after the games, this did not happen. He did, however, make one Italian movie, Alex l’ariete. Everyone hated it, apparently. It was terrible, but he did have a little bit of a comeback. Back in 2006, at Turino, he appeared at the final stages of the torch relay, carrying the torch in the stadium. So he is still considered one of the greatest stars of Italian sports in all of history.
Jill: I wonder if he’ll be involved with 2026 and where in the torch relay he will be.
Alison: Has to be there. Has to be there. No doubt. The Italian sports fans would be crushed. They still [01:05:00] adore him. If you bring him up today, all these years after he’s retired. Oh, La Baba La Bomba. Everyone still knows.
Jill: Excellent. Next year the results of our poll are in. You, the listeners have decided that we will look at Seoul 1988, these Summer Olympics.
I’m excited about this.
Alison: We just can’t get away from Asia.
Jill: No, but that’s okay. That’s okay. I think because I just have vivid memories of watching this on my little tiny five inch black and white television combo radio. We had a handle on it. It was portable. You, it was big square with a handle. You carried it around like a little suitcase
So maybe I’ll get one of those to, to relive.
Alison: And what’s funny is to me, I don’t have a lot of memories of Seoul which is funny cuz I should have.
Jill: Yeah, I know. I mean, for me it’s the first summer Olympics after. LA So I had gotten hooked and Calgary was so much fun to watch because we’re still in the era of summer and Winter Olympics in the same year.
So I was probably riding high off of the Calgary , Flame , and was so excited about Seoul.
Alison: Well, we got lots of stories, but we’re not done with France yet. We got a couple more months of Albertville. Excellent.
Alison: Welcome to TKFLASTAN.
Jill: It is the time of the show where we check in with our Team, Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests of the show who are now citizens of our very own country, TKFLASTAN. First up, Bob SL Joshua Williamson has been named to the US National Bob Sled Team for the 20 22 23 season.
Alison: exciting. Herr Don Harper Nelson was inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame. Yay.
Did you watch any of Paralympic day on October 8th?
Jill: No, I did not.
Alison: There are lots of videos posted on the Paris 2024 website and on their social media, it looked like a heck of a lot of fun.
They had the jumping pit, for lack of a better word, so people with blades were jumping and they had all sorts of events going on. It really looked like people are getting super excited for the Paralympics.
Jill: That’s cool. I’ve read there was something like 40,000 people.
Alison: There were a lot of people, and it gives you a good idea of what those downtown sports are going to look like, those things that they’re doing in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, how that’s gonna work
Jill: and how cool it’s gonna be.
Alison: Oh, well it’s gonna be hot, but it’s gonna be cool. ,
Jill: Oh wait, speaking of, cool, we’ve got some big news about a cold water sport, I guess you could say. Men might be competing in artistic swimming at Paris 2024.
Alison: This is huge because there’s only two sports that don’t include men, artistic, swimming and rhythmic gymnastic.
Jill: Exactly. So Inside the Games reported about fna, which is the International Swimming Federation. They had a technical Congress and one of the rural changes included a new definition of the word team. So team can now be eight competitors with up to one reserve, and then the total number of competitors may include a maximum of two male competitors.
But having men on a team would not be mandatory. So, The goal for FNA is to have more gender equality in the sport because men compete at the solo level and the duet level, but they’d like to get ’em at the team level. For the Olympics, though, the IOC needs to approve this change before it can be uh, a go for Paris.
So we will
Alison: see how that happens. If the IOC doesn’t approve the change, we’re not going to see men in the team competition cuz you’re not gonna have different teams for world championships and the Olympic. No.
Jill: Speaking of swimming, Leig Guro has reported that Paris 2024 has signed a contract with Myrtha Pools, and we know Myrtha Pools from back in like episode 30.
We talked with the CEO of Myrtha USA because Myrtha builds temporary pools. And they’ve worked with a number of organizing committees to have temporary pools for the games. Paris 2024 will be yet another one of their clients. They will have three temporary pools. This will be the warmup pool at the Olympic Aquatic Center in San.
And then the other two will be at non terror where the swimming events will take place. Once the games are over, the two pools that will be at non-air are going to be dismantled and reconfigured. So one of them is getting split from being a 50 meter pool into becoming 2 25 meter pools, and then they’re all going to be reinstalled in Send St.
[01:10:00] Denny, which is France’s Pest Department, and they really need pools there. The third pool that they are getting in this bundle is a rental, so it’s gonna go back to Martha .
Alison: It’s a rental. It’s gotta go back ,
Jill: but you know what, They get three pools for the price of two. It’s a good deal. Yeah. So that’s exciting.
I love this concept of temporary pools and I love the idea that this very poor department is getting a boost to the facilities that will be available to the public. Okay. Guess what?
Alison: Transportation. Whenever you say it like that, it’s either one of two things. It’s either we’re way over budget or something’s not working.
Jill: Yeah, they’re way behind on transportation accessibility issues for the Paralympics. Andrew Parsons, who is the president of the International Paralympic Committee, to his credit, has said We don’t expect a hundred percent accessibility and things like the metro. That’s gonna be a really big problem because the metro is such an old system and really was not built with anybody in a wheelchair or needing a different mode of transportation besides stairs.
Had that in mind. But I think they’re still behind the metrics where they want to be. They’re talking now about taxis and shuttle services being among their plans, but as we talked about a few weeks ago, they’re looking at not having as many taxis and shuttle buses to make their budget a little bit better.
So this will be interesting. I am a little disappointed that accessibility is not still more thought. But maybe there’s so many, difficult constraints in dealing with the current infrastructure.
Alison: This still goes into, the city is truly chosen by the Olympics, not the Paralympics. and when.
We were in Beijing and we asked Andrew Parsons about how much say does the Paralympics have and the choice of the city. It’s getting better and they are taking more of the Paralympic issues, but it’s still the younger brother. It’s still less important in terms of who’s choosing what city, and yeah, the Paris infrastructure is very, very old.
I mean, that metro system that they’re touting and saying is going to provide the majority of. The transportation around the city is not, built post awareness of things like accessibility for vision impaired, hearing impaired mobility issues.
So they’ve had to update it and sometimes you can’t update it.
Jill: So it’ll be interesting to see what the actual situation turns out to be, what workarounds they can manage.
Jill: Oh, you want people to go by drone?
Alison: Well, Paris 2024 seems to have the answer to everything, and the answer is drones.
So let’s get on that. Yeah. The drone could just come with like little hooks and scoop you up like the basket. They use the rescue basket. Oh yeah. Yeah. And they scoop you up in the rescue basket and they carry you to your location. Oh. Oh my God. That would be so much fun.
Okay. I’ve never wanted to be in any kind of marine accident or in need of a rescue basket, but I have kind of always wanted to ride in one.
Jill: Well, maybe the drones will come to the rescue.
Alison: I wouldn’t wanna take it away from anybody else though. Right now I would need disability access cuz I cannot do steps.
I kind of drag myself around the house. But yeah, get me a rescue basket. Harris is 2024 .
Jill: All right, well, well we work on that. We’ll call it a show. Uh, Let us know your thoughts about early days of sponsorship in the top program.
Alison: You can get in touch with us by email, flame alive pod gmail.com. Call or text us at (208) 352-6348.
That’s 2 0 8. Flame it. You can reach us on social media at Flame Alive Pod and be sure to join the Keep the Flame Alive Podcast group on Facebook where we will be having some fun questions for your vote coming in this.
Jill: Excellent. Next week we continue our conversation with Terrence. Ohhhhh!. We’re getting into the host city bidding system that got replaced by the New Norm and he’s got stories out the wazoo and now we understand a little bit more about why there’s the New Norm and a host city commission and all that process in place now.
So we will be looking forward to bringing you that next week. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive.