Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Interview with Maggie White, Business Manager Olympic Games for the Australian Tourist Commission. (Interview)

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

An Interview with Maggie White, Business Manager Olympic Games for the Australian Tourist Commission. (Interview)

Article excerpt

Keywords: Olympic Games, event marketing, sport tourism, sponsorship, leveraging


One of the most significant innovations to emerge from Sydney's hosting of the 2000 Olympic Games has been the way that Australian tourism organisations have built the Games into their marketing strategies. At a recent press conference in Sydney, Michael Payne, the Director of Marketing for the International Olympic Committee, commented: "It is great to see the tourist industry fully taking advantage of the opportunity of hosting the Olympic Games. It is the first time that a national tourist organisation has taken advantage of hosting the Games before the Games have been held. It is really a model that I hope we can take forward."

As the Business Manager Olympic Games for the Australian Tourist Commission (ATC), Maggie White is the woman who has made it happen. She is responsible for the ATC's ambitious international Olympic tourism marketing program, which was launched in 1996 with a four-year budget of Australian $12 million. Here she talks to Dr Laurence Chalip of Griffith University, about her role and the challenges she faced.

LC: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. It seems that the most central question is how the ATC first recognised the Olympic opportunity. What is the basis for the ATC's role?

MW: Australia had a number of events back in the late '80s including the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations. We also had Expo in Brisbane, so there was quite a focus on events in this country. When the New South Wales government and the Australian Olympic Committee expressed interest in putting in a bid for Sydney to host the 2000 Olympic Games, we were interested what that could do for Australia as a destination. At that stage, our job was to be a support mechanism for the bid. Very small; very low key.

Of course, when Sydney won the bid in September 1993, there was great excitement throughout the tourism industry, and I guess it was then that we tried to get a grasp of what this opportunity was. The ATC then started to think really seriously about what we, as an organisation, would do with the Olympics. Obviously, the first thing to do was go back and survey and research past Olympic Games destinations -- how they had handled tourism. I have to say, in all honesty, there was very little data out there. I guess, that's understandable in some respects because the summer Olympics are only held every four years. We were fortunate that Barcelona's experience really started to help us develop and identify what potential tourism opportunities could be for the destination as a host of the Olympic Games. So, we started there.

LC: How did your role develop?

MW: In July 1995 ATC management decided that a dedicated business unit to focus on the Olympics was required -- to focus its energies on the Olympic Games from a tourism perspective. That's when I came into the picture.

LC: Ok, let's review a bit about the Australian Tourist Commission in terms of what its funding is and who its key stakeholders are.

MW: The ATC is a statutory authority. We have a Board of Directors, and report to the Minister for Tourism at federal government level. We have some autonomy, but we also have a lot of responsibility to the government. We get government funding and we get quite a bit of funding from industry in cooperative marketing campaigns. We are not a membership body; we are very much working hand-in-hand with the industry on co-operative campaigns. Primarily, our task is to build the Australian brand, so that's where we target our advertising campaigns. We use TV, print, cinema and the Internet.

LC: So, in the context of your mission and your activities what did you see as the key opportunities around the Olympic Games?

MW: Around the Olympic Games, it was mostly the opportunity for additional publicity for Australia. It is very important to keep that in context because -- whilst the general level of awareness of Australia around the world varies from market to market -- it was important for us to add depth and dimension to people's impressions about the country. …

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