Lessons from the Atlanta Olympics: Marketing and Organisational Considerations for Sydney 2000. (Analysis)

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper presents an overview of the lessons learned by successful and unsuccessful small businesses during the 1996 Summer Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia, and considers their impact on organisations involved in the 2000 Olympiad in Sydney, Australia. With the Olympics in Australia now imminent, it appears that whilst the organisers have learnt and benefited from the painful lessons of Atlanta, there are still issues that are causing much concern even at this late stage of event organisation.

Keywords: Olympics, Sydney 2000, Atlanta 1996, Event Organisation, Olympic Business

Executive Summary

This paper presents an event analysis of the marketing, sponsorship and organisational lessons learned from successful and unsuccessful small businesses during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. It then considers their impact on organisations involved in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Atlanta devastated many Georgian businesses. The rush to cash in on the event saw container loads of unsold souvenirs, deserted restaurants and the fall from grace of once-thriving companies, ruined by their failure to maintain services to regular customers. One of the main reasons for these failures was that, to the surprise of all, the expected crowds never arrived. Further, those that came did not spend the money expected of them. The Olympic consumer proved a very different customer from a marketing perspective to the ordinary tourist or business traveler: an unpredictable hybrid - sports-mad, tight-fisted and uninterested in traditional tourist attractions.

Many of the businesses expecting to make a quick fortune out of the Sydney Olympics are likely to be as disappointed. The study of the marketing lessons of Atlanta 1996 shows that the businesses most likely to be successful are ones that are already established with strong product lines and/or surplus funds to deploy into new ventures in which they can afford to take risks. A key marketing lesson from Atlanta was that the companies that benefited most during the Games were those that could generate large sales for themselves even without such a large-scale event.

Whilst it is now clear that many Atlanta businesses failed to prepare for the shock of the Games, the Atlanta experience clearly demonstrates that the competence of the event-organiser, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG), also had a significant impact. ACOG's decisions on new transport routes diverted customers from shop-fronts, its efforts to "home-source" employees collapsed, and it gave up on the policing of licenses and permits causing carpetbaggers to use unrestricted "ambush marketing" tactics. The paper deals with such issues under three categories:

* Logistical issues: these relate to traffic planning, street closure, garbage disposal etc., during the period of the Olympics.

* Business issues: these include forecasting demand, strategic planning, product and brand positioning, relationship marketing, cost control, asset investment, equipment leasing, granting of credit, collection of debts, inventory control etc, in periods of concentrated demand.

* Infrastructure issues: these include licensing, permits, employee supply and training and crisis management (e.g. handling the bombing). Many of these issues relate to government and quasi-government (ACOG) support of small business initiatives.

How the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) is handling these issues in the context of the Sydney 2000 Olympiad is detailed in the second part of the paper. With the Olympics in Australia imminent, it appears that whilst the organisers have learnt and benefited from the painful marketing lessons of Atlanta, there are still issues that are causing much concern even at this late stage of event organisation.

Lessons from the Atlanta Olympics

When Atlanta, Georgia, was first awarded the opportunity to host the 1996 Olympic Games, the business community anticipated a windfall in the profits generated from the increased business that the anticipated 2. …